Truth or Consequence: Cop Credibility Undermines Two Federal Cases Built on Baltimore Police Traffic Stops

by Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Dec. 15, 2010

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett tossed out evidence in a gun case Dec. 6 because, as he wrote in his opinion, the testimony of the Baltimore police officers who arrested the defendant “simply strains credulity.” In September, U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz did the same in a heroin case.

In both instances, the evidence was obtained as a result of traffic stops for minor infractions, and was at issue during motions hearings at which the arresting officers testified. In both cases, the officers’ credibility did not survive scrutiny, raising questions about the efficacy of the police practice of using minor traffic violations as a pretext for going after major crimes.

The most recent case charged Travis Gaines with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Gaines was arrested in January near Pennsylvania Avenue and Mosher Street by three members of the Central District Operations Unit: Jimmy Shetterly, Frank Schneider, and Manuel Moro, according to Bennett’s written opinion. Two of them were allegedly assaulted by Gaines after one of them patted him down and found a gun in his waistband. The problem, Bennett wrote, was the officers’ reason for pulling over the car in which Gaines was a passenger: that they saw a crack in its windshield.

“This Court does not believe it was possible for the police officers to see the crack in the windshield,” Bennett wrote, so “the gun must be suppressed as the fruit of the illegal stop”—despite Gaines’ alleged assault of the officers, since it occurred after the unlawful search. The “gun was discovered before the assault, and the fact that Mr. Gaines engaged in allegedly unlawful behavior after the discovery of the gun does not expunge the government’s unlawful conduct in making an illegal traffic stop” (emphasis in the original).

U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says his office is “reviewing the case and there is a strong probability that we will appeal” Bennett’s ruling. In the second case—against Stephen Chester, who was charged with possession with intent to distribute heroin—Rosenstein’s office did not appeal Motz’s ruling to throw out the government’s evidence, but instead opted to dismiss the charges against Chester.

Motz did not issue a written opinion in Chester’s case. But the courtroom drama exposing the false testimony of the police who took the stand during the motions hearing is reflected in the transcript.

During the Aug. 31 hearing, two Baltimore Police detectives—Timothy Stach and Jamal Harris—testified that they and other officers pulled over Chester’s car on April 16, 2009, in the Mondawmin Mall parking lot, because they saw he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt; and that they flashed their unmarked police vehicles’ lights as they conducted the traffic stop so that the defendant would know they were police. Yet, on cross examination, defense attorney Chris Nieto of the Office of the Federal Public Defender played video footage of the stop, which convinced Motz that the detectives’ version of events was false.

“I think that the video speaks for itself,” Motz said to Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Celeste at the end of the hearing, as he granted the defense motion. It’s “a scenario where there’s certainly a reasonable inference that Mr. Chester thought he was being robbed. And that sort of makes . . . your case fall apart.”

It is “rare” for evidence to be thrown out in federal cases, Rosenstein says, because “these cases are carefully reviewed” by his office before they are charged. Prosecutors first sift through the police reports and then they “meet with the police officers face-to-face and interview them about the facts,” a process that “screens out potential problems.” But it is still “possible that new evidence might come up, and that’s what happened in the Chester case.”

“The video,” Rosenstein adds, “shows that [the police detectives’] testimony is incorrect.” While he declined to comment specifically about any repercussions from the Chester case, he says “whenever there are concerns about officers’ credibility, we discuss it with departmental officials.”

Baltimore Police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi says “we obviously take extremely seriously” any instance when police credibility on the witness stand is found lacking, and such cases are “normally referred to internal investigations” to probe whether or not disciplinary proceedings are in order. Because Bennett’s ruling in the Gaines case happened only recently, Guglielmi was not in a position to discuss the status or existence of such a probe. By press time, he had not produced any information about any repercussions for the officers who testified in the Chester case.

As for the practice of pulling people over for traffic violations in pursuit of larger crimes, Rosenstein says “as a police tactic, it is useful. A lot of times, all it results in is a traffic citation. But in other cases, the result is a major arrest for drugs or guns. It is part of [a police officer’s] job to stop people for traffic violations,” he adds, and the tactic “is accepted by the [U.S.] Supreme Court as good police work.”

But the defense attorneys for Gaines and Chester say it comes with a price—the confidence and trust regular, law-abiding citizens place in their law enforcers.

“For every suspect traffic stop that results in the recovery of contraband,” Nieto says, “there are countless more involving law-abiding citizens whose rights are violated when they are pulled over, removed from their cars, and searched for no reason.” Those instances don’t receive public attention because “the people involved are never charged with a crime.” Yet, Nieto continues, “These citizens are the same people that sit on our city juries, who hear Baltimore City officers testify, and are asked to believe every word they say. It surprises me that prosecutors and the police department don’t understand that it is this type of bullying that contributes to our city’s juries being so skeptical and distrusting of Baltimore City police.”

Nieto’s colleague in the public defender’s office, Joseph Evans, who represented Gaines, adds, “The larger point is that people are beginning to realize that this is very counterproductive. It generates disrespect for the law and law enforcement and creates a lot of antagonism in African-American communities in particular against law enforcement. And this is actually a shame.”

Firearms Fiasco: Baltimore County police return seized guns as owner’s lawsuit exposes cops’ missteps

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, March 27, 2013

After two and a half years of fighting a lawsuit against Baltimore County police, gun collector David Bord’s pursuit of justice appears poised to bear fruit. Nearly all of the $250,000 worth of historic firearms, mostly machine guns, seized from him in a December 2009 raid on his home and business, were returned to him in December 2012. What remains to be determined is the how much damage his collection suffered during the three years they weren’t in his possession—and how badly law enforcers behaved in claiming a legal right to seize them in the first place.

“We’re going to do Baltimore like Fast and Furious,” says Bord, referring to the scandalous Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) operation that allowed illegally purchased firearms to continue in circulation, “but it’s going to be The Fast and the Stupid, because that’s how they handled this.”

“We are absolutely on the warpath,” adds Bord’s wife, Robin Bord. “How dare they do this to my family?”

The lawsuit (“Gun Trouble,” Mobtown Beat, June 6, 2012) claims that detective Erik Socha and Cpl. Anthony Kidwell led raids on the Bords’ home and auto-repair business that were based on a bad warrant “in order to intimidate” David Bord and cause him “economic injury.” The operations also were undertaken “for gratuitous sport rather than for proper law-enforcement purposes,” according to court documents, and Socha and Kidwell, when presented with all the proper firearms paperwork after the raids, said “save it for court,” that the paperwork was “wrong” or “bull***t,” and “words to the effect” that David Bord “would never get his property back.”

Now that the guns have been returned, a trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court before Judge H. Patrick Stringer Jr. seeks to determine the value of the damages the weapons suffered between the time they were seized and returned, as well as establish the costs borne by Bord for bringing the lawsuit and for legal representation while he was unsuccessfully prosecuted for gun crimes, according to statements made during the proceeding by William Butler, David Bord’s attorney. The trial so far has spanned three days, from March 19 through March 21, and is scheduled to resume on April 29.

The delay, says David Bord, is due to the sudden emergence of photographs of the guns as they were being seized, the existence of which he says Baltimore County previously had denied. Once the photographs have been properly analyzed, he explains, the trial will resume with better evidence to determine how badly the firearms were damaged during the three years they were gone.

While David Bord awaits Stringer’s determination of how much money Baltimore County should pay him, he can already enjoy some level of satisfaction from testimony about the cops’ missteps during the firearms seizure and its fallout. “Money is not my overriding issue,” he says, adding that Socha “spilled his guts” while testifying.

“He admitted on the stand that he has tire tracks on his back from being pushed under the bus” to take the fall after the ill-advised raids, which were based on a warrant in which Socha swore to having machine-gun expertise, yet “he never knew anything about machine guns,” David Bord says. “He signed his name on the warrant,” Bord continues, “and they knew it was all bad, and now they left him out to dry. By his own admission, he’s probably going to have to go get a new job.”

The county attorney handling the trial, Shawn Vinson, declined to comment, saying “the case is still ongoing,” while Butler was unavailable for comment before press time.

At the beginning of the trial, on March 19, Vinson told Stringer that “Baltimore County acknowledges that the plaintiff is entitled to possession” of the seized machine guns, but asserted there was “no admissible evidence” that they were damaged while in the county’s hands, pointing out that the seized collection also spent time with the ATF before they were returned. Butler, meanwhile, said the “wrongful taking and detention” of the collection, which was “mistreated” by law enforcers, means Bord “needs to be compensated.”

The collection’s seizure was the result of an ATF tip that Bord had a Hatton Industries machine gun he’d purchased at the Armory, a gun store in Annapolis, that agents thought was part of an allegedly fraudulent gun-registration ring based in Arizona that “harvested” serial numbers from older machine guns not covered by a federal ban, and welded them onto new guns they manufactured and then sold as pre-ban guns (“Blunderbusted,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 5, 2010). The Arizona case ended in December jury convictions for the two defendants—including Marylander Randolph Rodman—who hadn’t previously pleaded guilty.

Arrested Development: Police lied for Baltimore raid warrant to arrest innocent man, lawsuit claims

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Nov. 13, 2013

Close to midnight on Jan. 16, a SWAT team used a battering ram to break down the front door of 4823 Aberdeen Avenue, a rowhouse near Herring Run in Frankford. Inside, they found their man: 19-year-old Kyle Brandon Wills, a suspect in two armed robberies in Howard and Baltimore counties. After two days in jail, Wills made bail in Howard County, but was immediately arrested by Baltimore County police and spent another day locked up there.

Turns out, though, it was the wrong man. What’s more, in order to convince a judge to sign the raid warrant leading to Wills’ arrest, the detectives on the case—Mark Claypoole of Baltimore County and Wade Zufall of Howard County—falsely claimed Wills had recently been arrested with the other suspect in the armed robberies, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 6 in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

After prosecutors in Howard and Baltimore counties learned of “the terrible mistake that had been made,” the lawsuit explains, the charges against Wills were dropped and another man—Wills’ cousin, Stanley Berry—was charged instead. But the damage wrought by the raid and Wills’ detentions, all based on the detectives’ allegedly false claim, had already been wrought: three days in jail, two strip searches, a required medical intravenous injection, emotional trauma, still-ongoing monthly payments to pay back the bail money, and an arrest record for serious charges in two jurisdictions.

As a result, Wills, his mother, Vickie Wills, and brother Calvin Clifton—the three people present when the SWAT team came through their door—are suing Claypoole, Zufall, and their police forces for false arrest, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, seeking $75,000 in compensation and another $75,000 in penalties. Their attorney, Charles Curlett says Wills, a 2012 Patterson High School graduate, is employed at University of Maryland Hospital, helping prepare operating rooms for surgery.

“I don’t see how this could be an honest mistake,” says Curlett, adding that the detectives’ allegedly false claim that Wills had been arrested was the “lynchpin of probable cause” in the affidavit that supported the raid. “I think it is a very strong case.”

Howard County prosecutors declined to pursue the charges against Wills on Feb. 13, and two days later his Baltimore County charges were dismissed. The cases against Berry and Michael Elliott Dickey—the man who was originally charged with Wills—remain intact, though. Both pleaded guilty in their Howard County cases, receiving 10-year sentences with five years suspended, and both are scheduled for trial in their Baltimore County cases.

Howard County initially was proud of the detective work in the case, issuing a press release on Jan. 24 announcing the charges against Dickey and Wills—and repeating the detectives’ false assertion that Wills had previously been arrested with Dickey.

“Wills is a known associate of Dickey’s,” the press release states, “who was recently arrested with Dickey for an unrelated incident in another jurisdiction. Surveillance video in both cases show Dickey and Wills together, each wearing the same clothing in both incidents.”

The details of how Claypoole and Zufall pursued the case are spelled out in the lawsuit. The two-county probe was spawned after two men robbed an Exxon gas station in Columbia by throwing hot coffee on the clerk’s face and then taking cash out of the register while brandishing guns. That was on Jan. 5—three days after the exact same tactics were used by two men in an armed robbery of a Quick Mart in Cockeysville.

Dickey’s fingerprints were found on the coffee cup at the Exxon, and it was soon discovered that he’d been arrested the day after the Quick Mart robbery for petty theft at a Walmart store—and at that time had been accompanied by a man who had not been arrested, but who identified himself as “Kyle Wills.” So Claypoole showed the Wal-Mart security officer Wills’ driver’s license photograph, and the security officer confirmed it was the same man who’d been with Dickey during the theft.

At that point, Claypoole and Zufall wanted to raid Wills’ home and arrest him—“but they had a problem,” the lawsuit explains. In order to get a warrant, they “needed to establish a likelihood that Dickey’s friend from Wal-Mart was also Dickey’s accomplice in the coffee robberies,” yet “nothing had been done to reliably confirm that person’s identity.” The security officer’s confirmation was not sufficient—but an arrest would be, since “his identity would have been established through fingerprinting, and they would have been able to rely on the arrest to tie that person to Dickey,” the lawsuit explains.

Absent an actual arrest, Claypoole and Zufall allegedly made one up. “Rather than admit what they did not know,” the lawsuit states, “they misled the court” with the following information that was stated in the raid-warrant affidavit: “Arrested along with Dickey during the Theft at Wal-Mart was the following individual: KYLE BRANDON WILLS BM 507 150 DOB = 9/18/1993.”

“When I saw the affidavit” for the raid warrant and saw the assertion that Wills had been arrested, Curlett recalls, he looked for it on the online court records and couldn’t find it. “‘Where is it?’” he says he asked himself. “‘Why isn’t it here? It is there for the other guy.’”

Not only was Wills not arrested at the Walmart, he wasn’t even there. But, according to the lawsuit, his cousin Berry—a man who was wanted on several open warrants—was, and told the security guard that he was Wills, who has no prior criminal record.

Based on the detectives’ “perjured testimony,” the lawsuit continues, a no-knock warrant was issued for the Wills home and a SWAT team “broke through the door of the suspect’s Baltimore City home and restrained his family at gunpoint and in handcuffs while they searched the house.”

Given that anyone, including a judge who’s considering signing a warrant, can check online to see if someone’s been charged with a crime, it seems a risky proposition for detectives to lie about such a thing. Curlett speculates that such “hubris may be borne of the unlikelihood that anybody’s going to challenge” the information. “So many cases plead out,” he continues, “the risk of airing dirty laundry like this is slim.”

With the Wills’ lawsuit, though, Claypoole and Zufall have run headlong into that risk.

Costly Charges: Drug prosecutions suffer after detective is accused of embezzlement

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Nov. 11, 2009

On Aug. 3, Ira Jimmy Martin was arrested for armed drug dealing in Baltimore City. “Lots of cash [was] recovered in this case,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Margaret Burns says. But on Sept. 24, court records show, prosecutors dropped all six charges against 33-year-old Martin. The reason, according to Burns: The case rested on the honesty of veteran Baltimore Police Det. Mark James Lunsford.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task-force officer, Lunsford was revealed in federal court as being accused by the FBI of embezzlement and lying (“Baltimore Cop Charged by Feds with Lying and Embezzlement,” News Hole, Sept. 24 ) on the same day Martin was let off the hook.

Burns explains in an Oct. 7 e-mail that it “turns out that the drugs [in Martin’s case] were handled at all points by Lunsford only, and so we lost this one. There is no way we could get the drugs in [as evidence in court] due to the taint of the officer.”

Lunsford-related cases dropped by city prosecutors since the FBI’s accusations include drug charges against Ivan James, Teon White, and Demetrius Waters. Burns predicts the total tally is likely to be few in number, since much of Lunsford’s work was for federal investigations.

Federal prosecutions impacted by Lunsford’s charges include two cases previously covered by City Paper.

Querida Lewis and Inga Bacote (“Femme Fatale,” Mobtown Beat, Jan. 14) have pleaded guilty to a cross-country marijuana-trafficking conspiracy, but have not yet been sentenced. Their attorneys won court approval to postpone sentencing so they can better determine Lunsford’s role, which ties in through Lunsford’s affidavits in another, related case against Gilbert Watkins. Watkins pleaded guilty early this year to a cocaine conspiracy and received a 135-month prison sentence. Lunsford was “clearly involved” in the Lewis-Bacote case, says Lewis’ lawyer, Catherine Flynn, who says she now will take the “opportunity to re-review the discovery in the case, now that the information about Mark Lunsford has been disclosed.”

Firearm-and-narcotics charges against Wade Coats and his co-conspirators (“Armed Drug Dealer for Steele?” Mobtown Beat, June 17), whose alleged dealings occurred, in part, in a Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel room, were based upon a statement of charges sworn out by Lunsford.  In a motion for disclosure of exculpatory evidence filed in the case by attorney Marc Zayon, who represents co-defendant Jose Cavazos, Lunsford is said to have a stolen a watch from the hotel room. Court records show Assistant U.S. Attorney James Wallner’s response to the motion, due on Nov. 5, has not yet been filed as of press time.

[The Coats/Cavazos trial later became the subject of Corner Cartel, City Paper, Feb. 23, 2011.]

“We are reviewing all federal cases in which [Lunsford] had a role to determine if it impacts the evidence,” U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein says. “Abuse of a position of public trust is one of our highest priorities, and this case is of significant concern because Det. Lunsford was working with a federal task force on important cases.”

The details of the charges against Lunsford are found in a 16-page affidavit by FBI Special Agent Brian Fitzell. The document lays out a time line, starting in June and ending with the filing of the sealed complaint on Sept. 22, during which Lunsford arranged to have an informant paid government funds in exchange for helping in investigations, and then allegedly split the proceeds with the informant, who reported the kickback scheme to the FBI. In fact, the FBI affidavit explains, the informant provided no help in the cases for which Lunsford arranged for funds to be paid.  In addition, the informant told the FBI of instances when Lunsford allegedly stole valuables from suspects, including watches, clothing, and video games.

Conversations between Lunsford and the informant–referred to in Fitzell’s affidavit as “CHS,” short for “confidential human source”–were recorded by the FBI, and some of the exchanges were included in the affidavit. Regarding $10,000 in funds that the two had split, the CHS asked, “Me and you are the only ones that know we split that 10 grand, right?” “Oh, yeah, nobody knows,” Lunsford replied according to the affidavit, “don’t nobody know nothin’ about that money . . . but me and you.” In another conversation, Lunsford told the CHS that he’d stolen video games from the house of someone interviewed recently by law enforcers.

“I ain’t goin’ into a [expletive] house,” Lunsford said, “if I ain’t gettin’ something out of that bitch.”

On Sept. 23, the day after the sealed complaint was filed against Lunsford, FBI agents conducted a morning raid on his home at 1246 Canterbury Drive in Sykesville (“Stash Found at Home of City Cop Charged With Lying and Embezzlement,” News Hole, Sept 30). According to court documents, they seized a host of items, including a money-counting machine, $48,300 in cash, a digital scale, testosterone gel packets, 29 pieces of expensive jewelry and watches, $1,000 money wrappers, a “zipped plastic bag containing green leafy substance,” and a “box of property taken from Darrell Francis.” According to court records, Lunsford wrote the complaint against Francis that resulted in the defendant’s 2008 guilty plea and a resulting 19-month prison sentence, in a federal drug-conspiracy case that spanned from Baltimore to Atlanta and Texas.

Rosenstein would not comment specifically on the fruits of the raid on Lunsford’s home, but says, generally, that his office “often pursues additional leads that are generated when search-and-seizure warrants go with arrests.”

Baltimore Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, asked to comment on Lunsford’s case, says that the department won’t put up with corrupt conduct on the part of its officers. “Commissioner [Frederick] Bealefeld has made it very clear that we hold people accountable,” Guglielmi says. “Any behavior which undermines the integrity of this agency and the hard work of our police officers simply will not be tolerated by this administration.”

Lunsford’s attorney, Paul Polansky, declined to comment. In early October, Lunsford was quoted by WJZ-TV saying that “there is a legitimate explanation” for his alleged conduct “that does not involve illegal activity, and hopefully the truth will come out in court.”

Court documents in the case against Lunsford suggest the charges against him are based, in large part, on Ira Jimmy Martin’s arrest. Fitzell’s FBI affidavit discusses an individual described as “Suspect-3,” who was arrested on Aug. 3–the same day Lunsford arrested Martin. During a recorded meeting between Lunsford and the CHS, the affidavit explains, Lunsford said he “hoped to seize all of Suspect-3’s assets when he arrested him” and credit the CHS with providing the information leading to Suspect-3’s arrest.

“If I get him when he comes back from New York, you know,” Lunsford’s was recorded as saying of Suspect-3, “it’s 30 grand or 40 grand to [expletive] buy the kilo, you know, or maybe a lot more than that but anything he’s got in that [expletive]. I’m jammin’ this [expletive] toad up, man. [Expletive] it. ‘Cause that counts as money. That counts as you [expletive] givin’ me [expletive] and they got these [expletive] assets; therefore, I can get money off of that.”

The day after Suspect-3’s arrest, another conversation between Lunsford and the CHS was recorded. “I did that house,” Lunsford allegedly said. “Didn’t come up with nothin’ too good, man. I got ah . . . maybe like 10 grand, 11 grand, so I’m gonna try to put you in for that.” The next day, Fitzell’s affidavit says, Lunsford told the CHS that he was putting in “for a 20 percent payment from the $17,490 cash seizure made on the Suspect-3 case,” so the CHS could get paid.

Later, when Lunsford put in paperwork for the payment, Fitzell’s affidavit says that Lunsford falsely stated on the form that, “‘without the valuable intelligence provided by the [CHS] . . . [Suspect-3] could not have been arrested.’ As Lunsford well knew at the time he submitted the claim for an award to the DEA, the CHS had provided no intelligence to him concerning Suspect-3.” The CHS later received a $3,498 check from the DEA “for his supposed assistance on the Suspect-3 case,” Fitzell’s affidavit says.

City Paper could not confirm that Suspect-3 was Ira Jimmy Martin because the court file of the case against Martin is “not subject to be inspected,” according to the Baltimore City Circuit Court clerk’s office. Though online information for the case had been available on Oct. 27, when City Paper printed it out, on Nov. 4–the day after a scheduled hearing on the matter–it no longer was.

Attempts to reach Martin through his father, also named Ira Martin, were unsuccessful as of press time. His attorney, Stanley Needleman, did not return calls asking for comment about the allegations against Lunsford and whether they relate to Martin.

Homicide, Revisited: Two Men Want Detectives Made Famous by David Simon to Pay After Flawed Murder Convictions Put Them in Prison for Decades

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Dec. 10, 2013

James Owens is angry.

“I get pissed off every time I think about this,” the 53-year-old from Southeast Baltimore declares, sitting at a conference table in his lawyer’s office. “I don’t trust the cops,” he says, his glasses only slightly shielding the fury in his eyes, a thin mustache punctuating his vehemence. “Never have, after this happened, and I never will. I hate them.”

Looking at Owens, hearing his Baltimore accent stridently utter those words, it’s clear he’s simply telling it like it is. Twenty years in prison before being cleared of a murder conviction will make a man mad.

But Wendell Griffin, a 62-year-old also at the lawyer’s office meeting, is not the least bit angry. His bald pate rests smoothly above his kind face and soft eyes, a wispy gray beard on his chin. Griffin appears to be a gentle soul, and it seems perfectly natural for him to wax calmly and philosophically about his experience: “If the good Lord does things in such a way that I don’t even understand it,” he says, “then I just keep my faith and I move forward.”


Clarification: Neither of the murders for which James Owens and Wendell Griffin were wrongfully convicted occurred in 1988, and thus neither were mentioned, much less covered, in Homicide.

Cop Out: In Rousting Officer Jacqueline Folio, The Baltimore Police Department Has Raised Questions About its Own Internal Affairs


By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Apr. 6, 2005

At 6:08 p.m. on Thursday, March 27, 2003, an anonymous tipster calls Baltimore City 911 and describes a black man wearing a blue baseball cap, a white shirt, and blue jeans, dealing drugs at the corner of Pratt Street and Ellwood Avenue in East Baltimore. The stash, the caller says, is in a brown paper bag in some bushes next to a corner house there. Three minutes later, 41-year-old Baltimore City Police patrol officer Jacqueline Folio is the first to respond to the scene, where Patterson Park butts up to Highlandtown Middle School.

A 14-year veteran with two stints as a police academy instructor under her belt, Folio makes fleeting eye contact with a young man who fits the description, as he walks away from the area with two friends. Folio radios in the suspect’s location and proceeds to recover a brown paper bag from under the bushes. It contains money and suspected cocaine in baggies. A block away, on the opposite side of the school, other officers collar the suspect, 18-year-old Leon Burgess. A half-hour after the phone call, Burgess is on his way to Central Booking. Folio completes the paperwork, charging Burgess with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, then submits the evidence to headquarters at 9 p.m.

By all appearances, it’s a routine drug arrest, done with speed and efficiency, wrapped up neatly and ready for the courts in a matter of hours. But by midnight, it’s Folio, not Burgess, who’s in hot water. Two years later, she still is, because the whole incident was a setup, a police integrity sting designed and conducted by the BPD’s Internal Affairs Division to see if a cop fails to turn in abandoned drugs and money.

Folio properly submitted the contraband, but in her sworn statement charging Burgess with the crime, she seemed to state that she’d seen Burgess place the bag in the bushes. “Prior to the call being received by Agent Folio, the officer was patrolling that particular area and observed three B/M’s at the intersection of E. Pratt St. and S. Ellwood Ave.,” Folio wrote in her statement of probable cause to charge Burgess. “Agent Folio observed one of the B/M’s described as wearing a dark colored baseball cap, white T-shirt, and jean shorts place an object onto the ground behind a bush located against the NW wall of that corner. This individual is further identified as the def. Burgess.”

On March 28, 2003, Folio learned she was in trouble, and was immediately suspended. Although she had no obligation to do so, she wanted to give a statement about the incident because she believed she could convince investigators—or even a grand jury, if it came to that—that she was innocent. She got that opportunity on June 6, 2003, when she waived her rights under the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights and provided a voluntary statement to Internal Affairs. The department wasn’t convinced; a week later, on June 12, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office indicted her criminally for perjury and misconduct, saying she’d purposefully lied under oath in order to maliciously pin false charges on Burgess.

The Folio indictment appeared to confirm a bad-cop stereotype—the aggressive enforcer who works poor, black neighborhoods and already has a good idea who’s guilty and who’s not, making it easy to pin false charges on a passer-by and rationalize it as removing trouble from the street before it actually happens. It’s offensive, it’s unconstitutional, it’s criminal, and it’s happened before. And Folio’s sworn statement of charges is what it is: Her statement reads that she saw Burgess “place” the stash behind the bush. In order to convict her, the state’s attorney was going to have to prove criminal intent—that Folio did it on purpose.

In December 2003, Folio was acquitted of the criminal charges by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lynn Stewart, who didn’t explain her verdict but apparently bought Folio’s apologetic explanation. Folio testified that the allegedly false statement in Burgess’ charging documents was not intentional and malicious, as the prosecution argued, but the result of vagueness due to a run-on sentence.

“I know what happened that day was clearly in good faith on my part,” Folio said on the stand. “When I say ‘observed’ in my probable cause statement, I was trying to say that I observed the individual who was described by the caller. And when I use the word ‘describe,’ that was based upon the information I received from the caller—that this person, in fact, did fit the description that was given out.”

At the criminal trial, Folio’s long record of complaint-free service, her stints as an academy instructor (she estimates that 90 percent of the current force trained under her), and a stack of letters praising her character and professionalism all served to paint a picture of an officer beyond reproach. But the question of her guilt or innocence apparently remained open from the department’s point of view. Though Folio was found innocent of any criminal charges, nearly a year later, on or about Dec. 14, 2004, BPD decided to take its own crack at her, charging her administratively for her statement in the Burgess arrest papers. Folio could have volunteered to take a polygraph test in an effort to clear her name, but her attorney, Clarke Ahlers, says she never did because the tests are known to be “unreliable”—especially when used to gauge a person’s intent, which was the issue in her case. Nonetheless, “the police department,” Ahlers stresses, “had the right to order her to take one, and they never did.”

Folio’s administrative case would be heard by a police trial board, with three members of the department weighing each side’s arguments before deciding Folio’s professional fate. But the trial board didn’t happen. On March 11, 2005, one business day before the scheduled March 14 hearing, Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm signed a letter immediately ordering that Folio be “removed from her regular permanent position as a Baltimore Police Officer, without fault upon her part.”

Hamm’s move indefinitely postponed the trail-board hearing and forced Folio to retire, which she did officially on March 17. The next day, in order for Folio to be eligible for city health insurance, she and her roommate, Lisa Olszewski, also a city police officer, filed publicly as domestic partners—a decision that was not made lightly, since it officially outted them as a lesbian couple.

Suddenly, the department reversed course. On March 18, the department sent a letter to Ahlers stating that “Folio is under no direct order . . . to retire. In fact, as of this date she is still a member” of the force—despite the fact that Folio had signed retirement papers, as previously directed by the department, the day before.

On March 22, Hamm issued another letter, stating that his March 11 letter ordering Folio out of her job was signed and sent “in error” and that her “job has not been abolished and I am not authorizing a retirement.” As of press time, Folio’s status as a Baltimore City police officer remains in limbo, and she and her lawyer are outraged and baffled. Once you hear her side of this story, it’s not hard to imagine why.

Directly after signing her retirement papers on March 17, Folio and Ahlers arrived at City Paper’s offices to talk. It was the first time Folio had spoken to the press about the matter. Now that she was no longer a member of the force (or so she believed), she was finally free to talk.

“The cost of this case was devastating to me,” Folio lamented in a clear, even-toned Baltimore accent. Physically, she’s obviously strong—an attribute that explains her police academy stints, teaching defensive tactics and physical fitness. And like most cops, she’s practiced at masking her emotions when speaking. But her words themselves, more than her demeanor, gave away the depth of her feelings. “I live in the city, I’ve been a lifelong city resident, and I truly believe in the city. That’s why I’ve been here so long and had complete faith in the police department.

“I guess what hurts me most,” she continued, “is who really suffered here is the citizens of Baltimore—not having me on the street protecting their communities. And if you talk to anyone in the communities that I patrolled, they miss me. To me, that’s who I ultimately work for. And I like to know that when they saw me, for eight hours they at least felt safe at some point. That’s what meant the most to me, that I’m not going to be able to do that anymore.”

The police department has nothing to say about the Folio affair because, BPD spokesman Matt Jablow says, it expects to be sued.

In fact, Ahlers has so notified the department—not formally, but by implication. On March 22—the same day Hamm rescinded his order for Folio to retire—Ahlers sent a six-page letter to the department that, in closing, reviewed Folio’s “rights” in regards to her experience with the department’s internal-affairs bureaucracy. Among them were the rights to “take civil action” in the courts, to “request federal criminal and civil investigation of misconduct by her accusers,” and “to take effective public, political action through the mass media.” Ahlers dangled the prospect of negotiating a financial settlement, but pointed out that “Ms. Folio’s legal obligation to cooperate in any federal criminal investigation” was not negotiable. Reading between the lines, Ahlers was putting the department on the alert that Folio can give as good as she gets.


The banner reads HIGHLANDTOWN ‘DRUG-FREE’ MIDDLE SCHOOL. It hangs over a public school, next to a public park, as an early spring day turns to dusk, right when students and working people who live in the area are likely to be enjoying some free time outdoors. This is where and when Internal Affairs chose to place a fake drug stash under bushes next to a public sidewalk—where any youngster might pick up the bag, where any random person passing through might be swept up in the sting and arrested—as a ploy to tempt a cop to steal abandoned contraband.

As Folio experienced it, the “random integrity test”—Internal Affairs’ term for the operation—presented anomalies that raised eyebrows even as it unfolded. Folio says she and other cops who share her beat knew that Pratt and Ellwood is not a drug corner, so the tip itself (phoned in by an Internal Affairs detective) was out of the ordinary. Even Leon Burgess, the man Folio arrested, said as much during a police interrogation: “It’s not even a drug area that they was riding in. I have never even seen . . . drug[s] move through there.”

Stranger still was the condition of the recovered cash: $250 in clean, crisp, new bills, several of them with sequential serial numbers. Folio and another responding officer discussed the unusually fresh bills as soon as they first examined them, and Burgess, when he was interrogated by police officials while still in custody at Central Booking early the next morning, pointed out that “junkies don’t give you straight money like that. Junkies’ money’s sweaty and it’s balled up and all types of stuff.”

The Internal Affairs detectives’ sting also created a victim: Leon Burgess, who was falsely stopped, detained, and arrested as a direct result of the actions of the detectives, who did nothing to stop it. They were the only people on the scene other than Burgess and his friends who knew he was innocent, and the Internal Affairs detectives simply watched the arrest, recording it on tape. What’s more, the tape reveals that the detectives knew that they were watching trouble unfolding at the time.

Internal Affairs sergeants Terry Ressin and Robert Morris were sitting in a surveillance vehicle during the sting, and their video camera recorded their discussion as Burgess was accosted by the patrol officers. According to the transcript (which was provided by Ahlers to City Paper, along with the rest of Folio’s records of the case), Ressin remarked, “If they lock him up, we got problems.”

Morris responded that Folio is “supposed to be a decent girl. I think she’ll probably just get numbers for found property and lock him up for [inaudible], all we can hope that anyway.”

Ressin’s retort: “And if not, we’re all screwed.”

As it turned out, Internal Affairs was not screwed, but Folio was—with Burgess as collateral damage. “They know this is illegal,” Ahlers says of the detectives’ recorded conversation as they watched Folio arrest Burgess. “[Internal Affairs] had let a person be unconstitutionally stopped, detained, and arrested. He had no business being stopped because [Internal Affairs] knew, when they gave the description out [to 911], that it was a fiction. They know this is illegal,” he argues emphatically, growing visibly exercised. “Jackie doesn’t know that. She’s been dispatched to a felony in progress!”

What’s more, during Folio’s criminal trial it came to light that this particular test came with a heightened risk of a false arrest built in. Under cross-examination, the Internal Affairs detective who designed the sting, Brian Winder, admitted that the plan was to have Resin call 911 with a description “that mirrors persons in the area and advise . . . that the person described is dealing drugs” (emphasis added), almost guaranteeing the prospect of the false arrest of a passing civilian.

Elsewhere in Winder’s testimony at Folio’s trial, the detective acknowledged that he designed the test without a written manual to help him navigate potential pitfalls—what actions to take should someone be falsely stopped, detained, or arrested as a result of the test. (In July 2004, after Winder left Internal Affairs, he was shot and killed in the line of duty.) Indeed, a federal class-action discrimination lawsuit brought against the department in December 2004 by a large group of African-American officers asserts that “BPD has no written investigatory standards, policy, or training for members of [Internal Affairs].”

Folio says she has read a portion of a 1990s New York Police Department manual for doing internal-affairs stings, which explains what to do when faced with an unexpected problem, such as a false arrest. “It spells out, if it goes bad, what they need to do to stop it,” Folio pointed out.

“Suppose, for example,” Ahlers says, picking up on the theme, “if Officer Folio had pointed a gun at Burgess, would they then interrupt it? I mean, at what point were they willing to say, ‘Jeez, now things have deteriorated to the point that she may use deadly force, maybe now we ought to admit that the suspect is not the felon because it’s a fictitious felony.’”


Unprepared for the complications that arose from the sting gone wrong, BPD began tossing the problem up the chain of command like a hot potato. As Internal Affairs sergeants Ressin and Moore followed the police van that was transporting Burgess to Central Booking, Ressin phoned his supervisor, Lt. Ross Buzzuro. “We gave out a description,” Ressin explained, according to the surveillance-tape transcript, “and they, ah, actually stopped somebody a couple of blocks away, who fit the description and they locked him up.” (Emphasis in the original.)

Then Ressin called the lieutenant colonel in charge of Internal Affairs at the time, George Mitchell, to brief him on the situation. “They actually stopped somebody,” he recounted to Mitchell. “I don’t know yet if they found something on him while they were checking him or if they’re going to charge him with our stash. If it was our stuff,” Ressin added, “then we got problems.” Then, to an inaudible comment made by Mitchell, he responded, “Yeah, that’s what I’m hoping, but if not then we’ll do what we have to do.”

What had to be done, subsequent events make clear, was to stick the whole mess on Folio, based on her statement of charges against Burgess, which was completed by 8:30 p.m. At 10:30 p.m. on March 27, 2003, the evening of the arrest, the department’s then-chief of special projects, Sean Malone, was first contacted about the incident. Twenty minutes later, Mitchell briefed one of his Internal Affairs lieutenants, and sent another to the Southeastern District station house to await shift change, when Folio would be present. At 11:45 p.m., Folio arrived for shift change, and was immediately summoned to her shift commander’s office. By midnight, the Southeastern District commander, Maj. John Long, was advised by Mitchell of Folio’s “impropriety” in writing up an allegedly false report. Minutes later, two Internal Affairs detectives escorted Folio to the Internal Affairs offices to read her her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights. Her police powers were suspended immediately, and she was assigned to work at the Baltimore City Juvenile Detention Center.

Burgess, meanwhile, was locked up at Central Booking, where the booking process was completed by about 8:15 p.m. At 12:45 a.m. on March 28—just as Folio, at Internal Affairs, was being read her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights for having wrongfully arrested him, an innocent man—Burgess was taken out of a group cell at Central Booking and put in a room to be interrogated by Malone, Internal Affairs Lt. Joseph Smith, and Internal Affairs Det. Anthony Vaeth. The interview lasted for 35 minutes. Afterward, Burgess was returned to the cell and remained locked up until 2:45 a.m., when he was finally released and given a lift to his East Baltimore home by Malone, Smith, and Vaeth.

It’s clear from the transcript of that interview that Burgess believed he was officially under arrest when Malone, Smith, and Vaeth interrogated him. Smith even re-read him his Miranda rights on the record, an act that further veiled the fact that the police knew he was innocent, had been wrongfully arrested, and was now being wrongfully held and interrogated. It was then more than six hours after his false arrest, and no one had told him he was free to leave.


Ahlers, during the interview at City Paper right after Folio’s March 17 retirement, says he was particularly shocked at Malone’s conduct in handling Burgess: “His first concern, when he arrived at Central Booking that night, should have been to release Burgess. What he does instead is he scams Burgess by bringing him into a room and giving him Miranda. He knows, if he’s got an ounce of sense, that Internal Affairs has done something grossly unconstitutional here, and illegal, and that the city has liability. And so he takes what they’ve done, and he looks at Jackie Folio’s statement of charges, and he says, ‘Here’s the out. This ambiguous sentence here, we’ll put it on the officer.’

“The proof of that is that they never even call Jackie Folio to figure out the ambiguity. They never even asked her, ‘Is this accurate?’ She’s passed the test they designed. She’s turned in all the drugs, all the money. She has no history of ever getting a complaint. In fact, on the [Internal Affairs] tape one of them says she’s supposed to be a good officer.”

In fact, according to the case record, as the Burgess interrogation was winding down that night, the decision to criminally indict Folio had already been made. At 1:15 in the morning, Lt. Col. Mitchell of Internal Affairs notified Thomas Krehely, the assistant state’s attorney who handles police corruption cases; in turn, Krehely advised Mitchell to “gather info, interview people, and meet week of April 1, 2003 for an indictment.” Folio didn’t know her fate was sealed already. On June 6, 2003,when she waived her Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights rights and gave a voluntary statement, it was because she thought she could avoid indictment.

The morning after the sting, the press coverage began. “The Sunpapers breaks the story,” Ahlers recalls, “that Jackie Folio has committed a crime. That she put drugs on an innocent suspect. And if you compare the stories in the Sunpapers—there are two stories two days in a row—if you compare that, it’s verbatim [from] the Leon Burgess interrogation. Now, who would have leaked that? Well, the department runs this ridiculous theory by me—Leon Burgess called the reporter. The idea that he knows which reporter he should talk to at the Sunpapers to generate an article of interest, and that this was an [Internal Affairs] undercover operation—a fact that was not known to him—is absolutely absurd.”

Folio learned only earlier this year, in preparation for the trial board, that Burgess was interrogated by Malone the night of the sting—a fact that brings up another gripe from Ahlers about how the case was conducted. After the administrative charges were filed and the hearing approached, both sides shared information in a legal process called “discovery,” just as they had before the criminal trial. This time, though, Folio and Ahlers received evidence from the police department that hadn’t been provided to them, as required, during the earlier criminal proceedings. Some of the late-arriving evidence was proving helpful in preparing a strong defense for the trial board, but it also would have helped strengthen Folio’s successful defense before Judge Stewart.

“The transcript [of the Burgess interrogation] was one of the documents that was not produced by the police [before] the criminal trial,” Ahlers stresses. “And the person who makes the decision about what information the police department gives to the state’s attorneys office, who must provide it to the defense, is the chief of legal, Sean Malone. So he intentionally did not disclose that.”

Actually, Malone at that time was not chief of legal—a position department spokesman Matt Jablow says Malone had left in 2002—so the difficulties Ahlers had during the discovery process may not have been Malone’s fault. At the time, Jablow explains, Malone was chief of special projects, a job with vague and wide-ranging duties that even Jablow couldn’t summarize. And yet Malone was closely involved with the Folio case; when Ahlers phoned the department to speak to the chief of legal about Folio’s case, he says he found himself talking to Malone, who, Ahlers says, represented himself as chief of legal.

Malone, now the city’s labor commissioner, did not respond to phone calls or a letter hand-delivered and faxed to his office requesting comment for this story.


Clarke Ahlers has been a lawyer since 1986, but before that he had been with the Howard County Police Department since 1972—initially as a 17-year-old cadet, later as an officer. That helps explain why he was so taken aback when he first spoke with Sean Malone on the phone about the Folio case.

Ahlers says the conversation took place right after Folio had hired him. (Herbert Weiner, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police union, represented Folio when she was suspended, right after the incident, but Folio hired Ahlers shortly thereafter.) Having learned the details of Folio’s case, Ahlers decided the best course of action was to tell her side of the story to the department, which might decide that charges weren’t warranted. So he contacted the department’s legal affairs division, asked to talk to its chief, and ended up talking to Sean Malone.

“In my mind I’m picturing a 30-year salty veteran,” Ahlers recalls, “somebody who is a former police officer-turned-lawyer, been around the block, and knows everything there is to know.” In fact, at the time, Malone was 36. When he’d been selected as the BPD’s top attorney in 2000, he’d been a lawyer for 18 months. But he was a close friend and adviser of Mayor Martin O’Malley’s, having managed his election campaigns and been a bartender at McGinn’s (now Mick O’Shea’s) where O’Malley’s Irish rock band often played. Malone’s previous law-enforcement career before becoming BPD’s top legal authority consisted of an approximately six-month stint as a prosecutor in Baltimore County.

Ahlers says he began his initial telephone conversation with Malone by offering to give Folio’s side of the story in hopes of preventing criminal charges. He says Malone cut him off and insisted, in no uncertain terms, that Folio was at fault in wrongfully arresting Burgess, end of story. Ahlers says he countered that his client believed she was making a legitimate arrest thanks to the bogus anonymous tip describing a suspect; Ahlers says he was then shocked to hear the police department’s ostensible top legal expert counter that stopping a citizen under such pretenses was unconstitutional, when in fact, Ahlers points out, it is quite constitutional and standard police practice. Regardless, Ahlers says, Malone was apparently unmoved by the argument and cut the conversation short.

It all adds up, in Ahlers’ mind, to a Malone-inspired attempt to hide Internal Affairs misdeeds. Malone, Ahlers allows, “could fairly evaluate the case and say Jackie Folio did something wrong. Reasonable minds can disagree. And I respect if that’s his belief. And he has a job to do. What I didn’t understand, until recently, was he was engaged all along in protecting [Internal Affairs] from their misconduct. Reasonable minds can’t agree about that. That’s not his job.”

Folio was caught up in a “random integrity test,” ostensibly designed to create a situation that any cop in the vicinity could end up responding to, but she says she wonders how random her test actually was. About a month prior to the Burgess incident, Folio says, she responded as a backup to a very similar (and fruitless) call for drug activity a block from her Southeastern District post. And, she says, her girlfriend, Officer Lisa Olszewski, believes she was the target of a similar test set up two weeks after the Burgess sting. Since Internal Affairs won’t tell officers when or whether they’ve been tested, or if they passed, there’s no way to know for sure if the incidents were, in fact, Internal Affairs integrity tests.

Folio isn’t the only one with questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the methods the BPD uses to police its officers. A group of African-American officers filed a discrimination lawsuit last December against the city and the police department alleging that the department selectively uses disciplinary procedures to discriminate against certain types of officers. The lawsuit’s charges, which go all the way back to 1992, include allegations that Malone, as chief of legal from 2000 to 2002, discriminated by initiating investigations of officers, deciding which charges would be brought or dismissed, and influencing the outcomes of charges against them, including in trial-board matters.

The city’s response to the discrimination lawsuit casts off the allegations as an “attempt to undermine the disciplinary procedures” of the department, and claims that Malone enjoys “absolute immunity for any claim arising from their conduct in initiating and prosecuting disciplinary charges.”

Of course, problems with the department’s self-policing pre-date Malone. A 1996 study by the Baltimore City Community Relations Commission determined that 75 percent of terminated officers were black, even though black officers made up less than half the force. The study also found that 90 percent of black officers who went to department trial board were found guilty, while only 60 percent of white officers called before trial board met the same fate.

The commission’s report prompted a probe by the City Council’s Legislative Investigations Committee, headed at that time by then-Councilman Martin O’Malley. At its conclusion in 1998, O’Malley’s committee issued another report that confirmed widespread disparities in the disciplinary treatment of black and white officers, concluding that the most shameful aspect of the findings was “our failure to root out these problems when they are brought to our attention.”

Steve Kearney, the mayor’s director of policy and communications, says the police department under the O’Malley administration in 2000 started the integrity test program—the very one that netted Folio—as “a direct outcome” of the 1998 report, and that, in addition, the selection of trial board members has become random and less politicized than in the past. Department spokesman Jablow says that the IAD has conducted 460 integrity tests since 2000 and that four officers have failed them. He would not name the officers who failed; presumably, Jackie Folio is one of them.


“I’ve never seen stuff like this,” says a 30-plus-year BPD veteran who spent more than a decade doing internal investigations. He asked not to be named out of fear of retribution before his pending retirement. “It’s really gotten out of control, with the state’s attorney working as an instrument of [Internal Affairs], taking weak cases like Folio’s, indicting, and losing,” the BPD veteran says. “It’s done to harass, embarrass, and coerce [people] into resigning. But I’ve never, ever seen them do what they’re doing to Jackie—abolish some police officer’s position just to avoid letting them have a trial board. It’s profoundly befuddling.”

The “nucleus” of these problems, the veteran agrees, “is Malone, but he’s the mayor’s guy, so nobody steps up and objects.”

The way to make good police-corruption cases, he advises, is to “do them targeted, based on good intelligence—so-and-so’s dirty, so target him and find out. Maybe it takes three, four weeks to set up a targeted, but you end up with good, strong cases—and there are good cases out there to be made.

“But the mayor likes randoms, because it represents numbers,” the veteran continues. “With large numbers of randoms—which take a few days to set up—you can rack up the numbers and say you’re working hard to clean up the department, even though all you’re really doing is taking resources away from targeted cases. With randoms, more times than not, you end up with nothing.”

Former BPD sergeant Andre Street, a 25-year veteran who retired in 1995, remembers how random tests in the past had to be designed for total control of the environment. For example, Internal Affairs detectives might have planted a couple of joints in plain view on the floorboards of a patrol car: “They’d watch, do [the officers] follow procedures? Do they keep it, whether for personal use or as drop items to pin charges on a suspect? It was controlled because it didn’t put citizens at risk. Whatever you do you should do without involving the public. You have to plan for every contingency and be prepared to pull the plug at any time and say, ‘The gig’s up.’”

Ahlers, too, has a few ideas about how better to go about catching corrupt police. “Almost every study ever done about police corruption,” he asserts, “says that you look at the vice and narcotics units, not patrol. If you’re trying to find out if police officers get free coffee at 7-Eleven, yeah, maybe patrol officers are involved in that. But if you are looking for who is protecting organizations of criminals, you have to look at units that go after organized crime. At that level, what the criminal wants to know is, can they pay somebody for information or can they pay somebody for protection, and that’s really not going to happen at the uniformed officer patrol level.

“There are a lot of ways they could do this. Instead, they end up doing Jackie Folio and trying to cover up their own culpability.”


In the Folio case, a poorly planned and executed random sting netted a police officer allegedly lying in charging documents and inadvertently raised questions that cut right to the heart of how police are policed in this town. But what happened to Burgess, the falsely arrested suspect? His post-sting story suggests even more problems.

On April 15, 2003, about two weeks after the Folio sting, Burgess allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer on the 3700 block of East Pratt Street and was charged with conspiracy theft. On July 24 of that year, the state’s attorney declined to prosecute the charges. On May 1, 2003, Burgess earned assault and deadly-weapon charges thanks to his alleged connection with a large, drug-related fracas in the 3600 block of Eastern Avenue, but the state’s attorney declined to prosecute those charges, either. On Aug. 28, 2003, Burgess was charged with indecent exposure when he allegedly tried to force his way—while openly masturbating—into a woman’s home on the 2000 block of East Baltimore Street as she tried to stop him. The state’s attorney declined to take those charges to court, as well. On Oct. 29, 2003, Burgess was stopped on Conkling Street in Highlandtown after police say they observed him throw suspected drugs to the ground, and then, after searching him, found more drugs. The possession charge against him resulting from the incident was not pursued by the state’s attorney’s office. Burgess accrued all of these charges prior to his giving testimony at the December 2003 criminal trial of Jackie Folio.

Burgess’ attorney, William Buie, tells City Paper he advises his client, who is currently locked up and awaiting trial on several violent charges, including rape, not to talk to the paper while the current charges are pending. Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Krehely had not returned calls by press time requesting an interview regarding the past charges against Burgess, or any deal police and prosecutors may have struck with him.

Burgess seems to have enjoyed extraordinary luck in avoiding any recriminations for a time, but police and prosecutors have managed to force Folio to retire, even when they failed to prove she was criminally culpable for pinning false charges on Burgess. And now, with Commissioner Hamm having retracted his order forcing her to retire, it is possible Folio may be asked to return to duty and then fired by the department if she fails to comply.

On April 4, department spokesman Jablow told City Paper that, in fact, Folio’s trial board hearing had been rescheduled for later this month—and trial boards are only held in matters involving police officers, not retired police officers. Moreover, as this story was going to press on April 5, the spokesman issued a written statement denying that Folio’s being made the patsy for the department’s failures.

“Agent Folio’s allegations of a conspiracy are entirely untrue,” BPD’s statement reads. “The truth is that she has been charged administratively with making a false statement—a statement that resulted in an innocent man being arrested. The citizens of Baltimore demand and deserve better. In light of these charges, an internal hearing board will soon be convened to determine if Agent Folio violated police department policy.”

Folio laughs when told over the phone about the rescheduled hearing—BPD told the press about it before notifying her. “Isn’t that lovely?” she jokes. Then the laughter stops, and her voice turns serious and sad.

“I feel like I’m in an abusive domestic relationship,” she says. “I never thought I’d be going out like this.”

Old Business: Martin O’Malley’s Failed Promise As Baltimore Mayor Will Stay With Him, No Matter Who Wins The Governor’s Race

By Van Smith

Published by City Paper, Nov. 1 2006


In the summer of 1999, when then-City Councilman Martin O’Malley was running for mayor of Baltimore at age 36, he wrote With Change There Is Hope: A Blueprint for Baltimore’s Future. It was a two-part, two-booklet title (pictured), one bound in a green cover, the other blue. They were handed out far and wide during the last weeks of the 1999 campaign. O’Malley dubbed them collectively as “my epistle” or “my book,” and separately as “the Green Book” and “the Blue Book.”

Today, With Change There Is Hope represents a sweeping archive of O’Malley’s promises to voters. In politics, that’s a contract, a document that sets down what’s expected of the victor in return for votes. There is no penalty for failing to uphold the contract, but when its terms aren’t met, elections–such as the gubernatorial one that will decide between Democrat O’Malley, Republican incumbent Robert Ehrlich, and Green Party candidate Ed Boyd on Nov. 7–can result either in punishment or forgiveness.

Baltimore’s voters held up their end of the bargain with O’Malley when they first backed him seven years ago. O’Malley was expected to deliver–a lot. He’d set his plan down in the 40-page Green Book, which focused on crime reduction, and the 80-page Blue Book, which covered everything else–and how all of it is tied to the crime rate. Those who supported O’Malley’s re-election in the 2004 election did so despite the fact that many of his pledges remained unmet. Now, joined by voters in the rest of the state, they will decide whether to back him again in his bid for governor. O’Malley still owes Baltimore. If he wins the election, he’ll be expected to pay it back from the statehouse. If he loses, he’ll work off his debt at City Hall.

O’Malley focuses on the debt paid, not the debt remaining, as he makes the campaign rounds for governor. He has plenty of accomplishments with which to fill speeches. The main one, perhaps, was described in an Oct. 5 speech at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health: “Instead of wallowing in a culture of failure and excuses, we came together to take on the tough challenges and made progress.”

Running to replace Ehrlich this year, O’Malley recites a concisely packaged 10-point plan instead of handing out lengthy manifestos. Copies of With Change There Is Hope are hard to come by today. They are not available online. Google its title with the word “Baltimore,” and all that comes up is a link to City Paper‘s 2002 Best of Baltimore “Best Scandal: Police Corruption” blurb. But O’Malley’s 7-year-old collection of green and blue IOUs remains in the archives of history, ready to be dusted off once again.

“My approach as mayor will focus on two basic concepts–urgency and accountability,” he wrote in the Blue Book’s conclusion, after setting the bar for his own performance. He wanted change, urgently, and change came after he became mayor. But it often came not as promised, or sometimes not at all. That’s not surprising, given O’Malley’s great expectations. Urgency is hard to measure (he certainly seemed urgent), but accountability is O’Malley’s middle name. Now he’s accountable for how things changed, or have not.

Just as the mayor’s CitiStat program tries to keep city agencies on their toes by measuring government activities, journalists can apply statistical yardsticks to O’Malley’s promises. There are two sources of information for this exercise: what O’Malley said would happen, and what happened according to the numbers and known circumstances. (Numerous phone messages and e-mails to the mayor’s communications director, Steve Kearney, and O’Malley spokespersons Rick Abbruzzese and Raquel Guillory, were not returned.) Given the vast landscape of his panoramic vision for Baltimore in With Change There Is Hope, it’s best to begin by concentrating, as O’Malley did when he first ran for mayor, on a single issue: crime, and how everything hinges on it.


O’Malley’s June 23, 1999, mayoral campaign announcement speech, delivered at the corner of Harford Road and the Alameda, drew a small crowd. He made up for the lack of attention by using the speech’s text as the Green Book’s opener: “My name is Martin O’Malley. I believe I can turn this city around by making it a safer place, and I mean to begin doing it now.”

First, though, O’Malley had to get elected, and right off the bat his credibility was questioned. He told a story in the speech about having been to the same corner the previous midnight, when he was approached by a drug dealer, who asked, “What do you want?” The exchange gave O’Malley a rhetorical hook for his announcement.

“That’s a question,” the would-be mayor said to 30 or so supporters gathered to hear his speech, “that each of us in this city needs to answer in this important election year.”

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks suspected the hook was hogwash and immediately got on the case. Rodricks visited the neighborhood and found a resident who said that Harford Road and the Alameda is not a drug corner, but a “hackin’ corner” where “guys hang out lookin’ for rides.” O’Malley told Rodricks “it’s no big deal,” and explained that the guy on the corner who gave him his “What do you want?” line for the speech “was doing that hand motion they do when the markets open. It’s a notorious corner. That’s what they do there.” But, Rodricks reported, O’Malley “can’t say for sure that the young guy wanted to sell him drugs. It’s a hunch.” The columnist gave O’Malley’s poetic license its propers: “Good stuff, councilman. Even without that Monday-midnight story.”

O’Malley is prone to hunches, and has thus far benefited from people forgiving him when they don’t pan out. His main hunch as a councilman with mayoral ambitions was that if you solve the crime problem, everything else will fall into place. From O’Malley’s perspective, the revival of schools, housing, health, jobs, population, investment, tax revenues, the real-estate market–in short, all that makes cities tick–depended on public safety, government’s primary responsibility. He waxed on this theme in the Green Book, asking voters to “Imagine how quickly our great City will come back to life when we get hold of public safety and start closing down our expanding drug markets.” He pointed to other cities, such as New York, as crime-fighting models and suggested we simply copy what worked elsewhere.

In a 1999 phone interview about his crime plan, O’Malley was emphatic. “There is no way to create jobs or to improve the business environment if the only businesses expanding are these open-air drug markets. So that’s first and foremost,” he asserted. “It affects everything.” He went on to spell out his policing strategy, which had various names: “quality of life,” “zero tolerance,” and “broken windows.” The idea, he said, was to “improve the reality of public safety” by “changing enforcement priorities, by redefining the mission of the police as restoring public order on our corners and improving quality of life on our corners. When you do that the bigger crimes become easier to solve and easier to deter, and you drive the drug markets indoors, which drives down the random violence that is inflating our numbers to be some of the worst in the nation.”

At O’Malley’s announcement, he called the corner where he was standing an “open-air drug market,” and promised within six months to make it and nine others like it “things of our city’s past.” He added that “in the second year, 20 more open-air drug markets will likewise be shut down, and thus will the people of this city easily measure our success or failure.”

After six months in office, in a letter to The Sun, the mayor explained that he’d taken care of the 10 drug corners. And he described how it had happened: Police, city inspectors, and public-works crews had tidied them up, pronto. It was that easy.

The two-year mark in 2002, by which time O’Malley promised 20 more cleaned-up corners came and went without fanfare. As 2003 began, public frustration about the continuing crime problem was evident.

“We still have open-air drug markets on our corners,” City Councilman Bernard “Jack” Young (D-12th District)–usually, like most members of the council, an O’Malley ally–told the Baltimore Afro American in late January 2003. “Point-blank, nothing’s changed. We’re paying all of this overtime to the police. Where is the change?” O’Malley’s hunch was being called into question.

The experience of crime in Baltimore neighborhoods is as varied as the neighborhoods themselves. What feels to many like improvements under Mayor O’Malley–seemingly safer and clearly more prosperous communities around the waterfront, along the north-south axis of Charles Street, along the Northeast Baltimore thoroughfares of Belair and Harford roads, and in certain other key neighborhoods like Hampden–feels to others like it’s not happening in their neighborhoods. Because the improvements are concentrated in waterfront neighborhoods and the central north-south spine of the city, they are more evident than the sluggish expanses of the east and west sides, where change has come more slowly, if at all.

With or without dramatic crime reductions, though, the city has been rebounding in many ways, and O’Malley’s re-election in 2004 affirmed and affixed the notion that he was doing alright as mayor. Many understood that he would soon run for governor. Once he announced his candidacy for state office, O’Malley’s record as mayor became Republicans’ main message when promoting Ehrlich. They can do that because O’Malley’s hunch hasn’t worked itself out yet.


If O’Malley was wrong about crime being the foremost determinant of the city’s fortunes, then there’s room for forgiveness. Crime in many ways has trended downward, particularly in some parts of the city and for some types of crime. But low interest rates, not reduced bloodshed, likely had more to do with the city’s improved performance under O’Malley.

In the Blue Book, O’Malley noted that in 1999 “City houses fetch roughly one half of what they do in Baltimore County,” because of the prevalence of crime in the city. Since 1999, “thanks to reductions in crime and increased investment in the city, average home values in Baltimore have risen 120%,” according to O’Malley’s campaign web site.

Crime reductions may have helped, but the key factor was the residential real-estate market boom created by historically low interest rates and rising demand. The 2004 median sales price for a Baltimore single-family home was $130,500, compared to $215,000 in Baltimore County. Thus, instead of city houses selling for half the value of county houses, under O’Malley they began selling at about 60 percent of what county houses get. The value of city single-family homes gained slightly more than 35 percent between 2002 and 2004, an amount a tad higher than in Baltimore County.

Real-estate values and tax revenues tend to rise and fall together, and they both jumped under O’Malley, as expected during times of cheap money. In 2000, city revenues stood at about $1.4 billion. In 2004, they broke $2 billion, and stood at $2.1 billion in 2005. Increasing real-estate values helped a lot on the property-tax front, aided by new taxes instituted by O’Malley.

The level of private investment in the city, likewise, has increased substantially. Little scaffolding and few cranes were part of Baltimore’s streetscape in the 1990s, but they are common sights today. The O’Malley administration says the value of development activity under way in 2005 was estimated to be $2 billion, whereas ongoing projects in 2000 added up to a little less than $900 million.

O’Malley’s gubernatorial campaign biography states that, as mayor, he has “promoted job growth by attracting over $10 billion in economic development” and “nearly ended Baltimore’s decades-long population loss.” But jobs and population declined in the city, and unemployment rose from 5.9 percent in 2000 to 7.1 percent in 2005. Job loss from 1999 to ’04 hit Baltimore hard, taking away about 40,000 jobs–the most among Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions, as was the city’s loss of about 15,000 residents from 2000 to ’05. A 2002 U.S. Census snapshot of the city’s unemployment situation pointed out key disparities: While the overall unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, white men were at 2.1 percent and black men at 11.8 percent. The city made the top-10 list in the country for average weekly wage growth in 2005, but at the same time lost more jobs–5,800–than almost all of the 323 large cities and counties studied. While the city’s employment outlook hits some harder than others, the jobs that remain are paying better, and the loss of jobs went along with ongoing loss in population.

The jobs lost under O’Malley came on the heels of all the jobs lost before him. In the Blue Book, O’Malley painted a bleak picture of the Kurt Schmoke years, describing job declines in manufacturing, transportation, retail, banking, and hospitals. The situation hardly improved after O’Malley was elected. Between 2001 and ’04, Baltimore lost nearly 5 percent of its jobs. A quarter of its manufacturing jobs, 15 percent of its banking and finance jobs, 5 percent of its retail jobs–all disappeared in a four-year span. The drop in public employment was pronounced, especially local government jobs, which fell by nearly 4,000 positions, more than 12 percent. Only three sectors posted major job gains: hospitals, educational services, and the hotel and restaurant industry.

Under Mayor Schmoke, the city lost an average of 722 jobs per month, O’Malley calculated in the Blue Book. Between 2001 and ’04 under O’Malley, the city lost an average of 432 jobs per month. That’s a dramatic improvement, but it is still a drastic rate of job loss–especially when the surrounding counties are alive with job growth. The Blue Book pointed out that the surrounding counties posted a gain of 104,000 jobs when Schmoke was mayor, an average of 963 new jobs each month. Between 2001 and ’04, with O’Malley as mayor, the surrounding counties added nearly 63,500 new jobs, an average of 1,322 jobs per month.

Thus, while the city’s job loss has slowed under O’Malley, it has not reversed, as O’Malley predicted. And the surrounding counties’ job growth accelerated by about 40 percent. Baltimore remains the hole in the doughnut of regional employment trends.

The public schools, well, they’re still a mess, but there are bright spots. As the city’s population declines, so does school enrollment–by an average of 2,900 students per year since O’Malley became mayor, bringing the total down to about 85,000. While some of the trends in standardized test scores are good, many others are not. Graduation rates are up for seniors getting a regular education, but down dramatically for the increasing share of students in special education. The money spent to achieve these results has increased dramatically on a cost-per-student basis, and has been the target of near-permanent scandal over the school system’s financial accountability.

In the Blue Book, O’Malley reported that in 1997 only 16.6 percent of third-graders’ scores were “satisfactory” under the state reading tests. This statistic is recited again on O’Malley’s campaign web site, and updated with the claim that O’Malley “helped 61% of the third graders meet those state standards last year.” The standardized tests were changed in 2002. Under the new ones, the percent of third-graders with “proficient” reading scores has risen annually, from 38 percent in 2003 to 59 percent in ’06, when the statewide scores had risen from 50 percent to 63 percent. The same happened with third-grade math scores, with the percent of proficient third-graders rising to 52 today from 40 in 2003, when the statewide scores had jumped only four points, from 50 to 54. That’s some of the good news.

Some of the bad news is that only 2 percent of special-education high-school students passed the high-school English standardized test in 2005. That 2.1 percent passed in 2006 is nothing to brag about, since it indicates that students in the city’s large special-education program don’t have much of an education to look forward to.

As students continue in school, their improved scores in earlier grades should be reflected in improvements as they reach higher grades. In some cases, this has happened, but not in others. The third-grade class of 2004, for instance, was tested again as fifth-graders this year, when its proficiency in math and reading both were significantly higher than those of prior fifth-grade classes. But the sixth-grade class of 2004, which was entering first grade when O’Malley was elected mayor, is another story. When the class reached eighth-grade this year, its share of students scoring proficiently dropped in both math and reading compared to its sixth-grade scores.

O’Malley’s Blue Book measured city schools’ graduation rates harshly, saying that “only 25 percent of ninth graders . . . ever graduate. This is unacceptable.” The percent of regular-education 12th-graders graduating is rising, from 58 percent in 2002 to 64 percent today. But the drop in the share of special-education 12th-graders graduating went from 65 percent in 2002 to 35 percent today.

When running for mayor, O’Malley’s intentions about special education were clear: He wanted significant improvements, and a reduction in the size of the program. He said that, at the time, 18 percent of the student population was enrolled in special education, and he wanted that number to drop to 13. By 2000, it had dropped to 17 percent, which is where it remained in 2005. Meanwhile, by O’Malley’s figures from his first mayoral campaign, the cost of educating each special-education student per year was $9,680. Since then, it has increased by a fifth, and stands at $11,722 per student.

In his governor’s campaign biography, O’Malley expresses pride in city schools, claiming that “for the past three years, elementary school students have posted higher scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics at every grade level.” That’s an accomplishment that would make any mayor proud. But O’Malley, by law, does not control the city school system. As mayor, he is an equal partner with the state in its success or failure–an equal partner with the government headed by his gubernatorial opponent, Robert Ehrlich. “Our children should not suffer due to adult disagreements,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book. “In the future, Baltimore should, once again, take greater responsibility for our school system. But we also must build continually on the partnership we have established with Annapolis–it is in the best interest of our children.”

The city-state partnership has suffered from scandal after scandal arising from lack of accountability in recent years, leaving the city school system in such a shambles that it is surprising some children are able to learn adequately. Neither the city nor the state has stepped up to take unilateral responsibility, though their collective responsibility is there for all to see. O’Malley takes credit for the good where he can–with some improved test scores in some grades–and, either as governor or as mayor, may be in a position to do more for at least a couple more years. But he’ll also have to live with the bad, until the system gets fixed.


Baltimore under O’Malley is a mixed bag of results, and it’s hard to say changes in the crime rate made it so. By the raw numbers, though, Baltimore is safer now than when O’Malley started. In the first six months of 2000, when he was working off his obligation to clear the 10 corners, the city logged 141 murders, 161 rapes, 3,010 robberies, and 4,530 aggravated assaults, including 700 nonfatal shootings. In 2005, the totals from January to June were much rosier. Murder was down 3 percent, rape had dropped by more than half, robbery saw a 40 percent reduction, and aggravated assaults were reduced nearly a quarter, including a near 30 percent drop in shootings. The same number of under-18-year-olds–47–were murdered in 2002 as were in 1996, but in the first 10 months of this year 22 kids were killed, and all of last year saw only 14 juvenile homicides, so the situation appears to be getting less bloody for Baltimore’s teens.

Yet, despite these numbers and O’Malley’s optimism and declarations of success, frustrations and distrust about the prevalence of crime abound. Some of O’Malley’s crime numbers remain under the pall of a state effort to audit his numbers this year, an effort that the mayor rebuffed. And O’Malley’s earlier use of an audit of the 1999 figures to establish the baseline for his claims of crime reduction has been called into question.

O’Malley’s handpicked benchmarks in the Green Book set a high bar, and, although he didn’t meet many of them, they often moved in the direction he promised. His Green Book said public-safety improvements in the first two years of the O’Malley administration, for instance, should reflect New York’s as it first adopted quality-of-life policing under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the mid-1990s. When Giuliani was first starting out, murder went down 40 percent, robbery 30 percent, burglary a quarter, and rape by 8 percent, according to the Green Book’s figures.

By three of these measures, O’Malley fell short. His first two years saw nearly a fifth fewer murders and burglaries, and a quarter fewer robberies–all smaller drops than what Giuliani delivered. (Given the doubts about the Baltimore’s 1999 crime numbers, 1998 was used as the base year for this analysis, giving O’Malley three years to accomplish what Giuliani did in two.) But on the fourth category, rape, O’Malley achieved a reduction of about 40 percent, more than five times larger than New York’s. Rape later became a category of crime suspected in 2003 of being under-reported by Baltimore police, and, after an audit, a 15 percent upward correction in the 2002 numbers was ordered.

O’Malley’s second-guessed crime numbers have historical poignancy. When he was a councilman, O’Malley made a name for himself by proving that then-Mayor Schmoke’s police department was cooking its books to augment its mid-1990s crime-reduction claims. Today’s data-accuracy doubts suggest that perhaps O’Malley’s police department somehow has been aping the bad behavior of Schmoke’s department, though hard evidence of this has yet to arrive. Pending future findings, which themselves may end up subject to charges of inaccuracy, the numbers O’Malley’s police department reported to the FBI are the best available data about Baltimore crime.

The raw numbers about crime reduction that O’Malley likes to cite, though, tend not to take into account the decline in the city’s population. Do so, and Baltimore’s murder rate goes from 40.3 murders for every 100,000 residents in 2000 to 42 in 2005. Thus, it makes sense that many people believe Baltimore remains as murderous as it was before O’Malley became mayor–because Baltimore was, in fact, a bit more murderous, per capita, in 2005 than it was in 2000.

O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to make Baltimore a lot less murderous, by taking the toll down to 175 homicides in 2002. This bold goal helped him get elected 1999, when there were 305 murders. But when 2002 closed out, there were 78 more homicides than he’d promised. Boston, a city of a little less than 600,000 people, and one which the Green Book points to as a model for Baltimore to follow, had 60 murders that year, by way of comparison.

Baltimore’s crime rates look bad when compared to other large U.S. cities, and the numbers hardly improved from 2000 to 2005. After five years of O’Malley, there were 17.6 violent crimes for every 1,000 Baltimore residents in 2005, nearly 80 percent more than the big-city average. In 2000, as in 2005, the city’s murder rate was nearly three times higher than the average for cities of between a half-million and a million people. Robberies in 2000 were 2.6 times more common in Baltimore than in other large cities, and aggravated assaults (including shootings) were 2.2 times more prevalent. Five years into the O’Malley administration, the violence had fallen off, but still occurred at nearly double the rates in other large cities.

In With Change There Is Hope, O’Malley observed that “Baltimore is today the fourth deadliest city in the nation, and the city’s murder rate is seven times higher than in the average city.” Time hasn’t changed much in that regard. In 2005, Baltimore’s murder rate was still seven times the average for U.S. cities. In the 2005 Detroit mayoral race, the fact that only Baltimore had a higher murder rate than Detroit was put in play on the campaign trail. This year, in a ranking against 31 other cities with populations over a half-million, Baltimore was second most dangerous, with Detroit earning the top dishonor.

Where violence is concentrated is where the greatest crime reductions are possible. Traditionally in contemporary Baltimore, the brunt of the violence has disproportionately fallen on the Eastern and Western police districts, compared to the other seven districts. After a period of increasing violence in O’Malley’s first term, it is here, in the Eastern and Western districts, where crime numbers show improvements–fulfilling some of the expectations O’Malley created.

From 1999 to ’02, the share of the citywide homicides happening in the Eastern and Western districts rose from nearly 30 percent to more than 40 percent. Murders were dropping in the city (from 305 in 1999 to 253 in 2002), yet these two districts were showing substantial increases in their body count. That’s now changed. In 2005, the Eastern and Western’s combined tally had dropped 30 percent from 2002’s level, while the rest of the city’s homicides had jumped up a quarter. The burden is shared now by four other districts–the Southern, Southwestern, Northern, and Southeastern–joining the Western with more murders in 2005 than they’d had in 1999.

The recent geographical shift in Baltimore homicides suggests O’Malley in some ways is starting to mirror Giuliani’s 1990s crime-fighting success in New York. In 1999, just before O’Malley declared for mayor, the New Republic ran a cover story on Giuliani that examined an important trend in the Big Apple’s crime reduction: The sharpest crime drops were seen in the area’s that needed them the most. Harlem’s crime fell 61 percent between 1994 and ’98, for example, and East New York’s murders went from 110 in 1993 to 37 in ’98. Similarly, in Baltimore, the Eastern and Western police districts have recently shown substantial improvements, although several other districts have experienced increases in crime.

Overall, though, the picture on the crime front is pretty bleak compared to O’Malley’s expectations and how it compares to the rest of urban America. “With public will, energy and political leadership,” O’Malley wrote in the Blue Book in 1999, “Baltimore will join the ranks of America’s great rejuvenated cities that are growing safer, larger, and more diverse . . . That is my pledge.” Now it’s seven years later, and Baltimore continues to earn its title as one of the most violent cities in America.


Unlike his crime figures, O’Malley’s budget figures aren’t a matter for debate. In the Green Book, O’Malley indicated that the added cost of his crime plan was, well, nothing, or not much more. “The real solution in Baltimore is not to double size of the broken system,” he wrote about the police department, “but to implement the simple procedural reforms that will make greater use of the substantial resources already in place.” And in the 1999 phone interview, he said crime reductions under his watch would cover the reform costs, explaining that he planned to “increase city revenues by making this city a dramatically safer place quickly, and thereby reversing our loss of population.” He predicted that crime reduction would pay for everything, and then he pulled a George Bush I, promising that “I am dead-set opposed to raising taxes.”

The upshot from the police budget trends is this: a growing proportion of cops at desks, costing a larger amount of money. The department’s budget went up 25 percent from 2002 to ’07, the current fiscal year. Two parts of the departmental budget went up more than 100 percent: Administrative Direction and Control jumped from to $15.5 million to $32 million, while money for the Office of Criminal Justice Policy more than tripled, from $3.5 million to $12 million. Together, the administrative and policy slices of the police pie grew from 7 to 13 percent, while all other parts of the department saw their slices shrink. Though the overall budget went up, department-wide staffing levels dropped by nearly 5 percent from 2002 to today. Administrative staffing jumped nearly 8 percent–the only kind of police staffing that grew. Yet O’Malley’s campaign web site states that he “put more cops on the streets as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime.”

The five-year growth of the police budget wasn’t paid for with revenue resulting from an increased city population, as O’Malley had predicted. Population continued to fall, though more slowly. Rather, money was available to expand the police budget because of rising real-estate values and the mayor’s new taxes on energy, cell phones, and real-estate transactions, O’Malley’s prior no-new-taxes pledge notwithstanding. Because of the additional revenues, he was able to keep some promises.

O’Malley vowed in the Green Book to increase funding for the State’s Attorney’s Office “as long as it stays committed to the path of reform, and committed to keeping repeat violent offenders off the street.” The city’s contribution to State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy’s office has been boosted from $21.6 million in 2002 to $30.4 million today, a more than 40 percent raise that has allowed staffing levels for prosecutions to increase by 55 positions.

The mayor has been true to drug treatment, too. “Since 1996, annual funding for drug treatment in Baltimore has doubled from $16.5 million to $33 million,” O’Malley wrote in the Green Book, indicating this is a positive trend he’d like to continue. And he has. Drug treatment funding under O’Malley increased to $53 million in 2005.

Teen motherhood and other health indicators affect crime trends over the long term, and O’Malley aimed to oversee their decline. He pointed out that in 1997 “nearly 10 percent” of city girls aged 15 to 19 had babies. There was a steep decline after O’Malley took office, and in 2004 the proportion of girls that age who had babies was 6.8 percent. He wanted infant mortality to decline, reporting that the city in 1997 lost newborns at a rate of 14.4 babies per 1,000 live births, “nearly double the state’s rate,” he wrote. It dropped significantly. In 2005, the infant mortality rate had declined to 11.3, half again as high as the state’s.

O’Malley pointed out in the Green Book–as Jay Leno was saying, too, on The Tonight Show at the time–that Baltimore is “the syphilis capital of the United States.” As O’Malley wrote those words, the syphilis rate was in steep decline. In 1999, Indianapolis became the syphilis capital, after Baltimore’s rate had dropped 45 percent in one year. In 2002, Baltimore was ranked 11th among U.S. cities, with an incidence rate of 18.6 cases per 100,000 people. That year, 120 cases were reported. But the disease jumped sharply in 2004, when 209 cases were reported for a rate of 33.2, placing Baltimore third in the nation, behind San Francisco and Atlanta.

Two other sexually transmissible diseases were mentioned in O’Malley’s book, gonorrhea and chlamydia. Baltimore “is rated number two in the U.S. for active cases of gonorrhea,” he wrote at the time. It has dropped significantly since then, but Baltimore was still the fourth-highest city on the list for active cases of gonorrhea in 2004, the most recent ranking available. When O’Malley sought to become mayor, he explained that Baltimore’s national rank was “third for active cases of chlamydia.” The city’s chlamydia rate has actually risen significantly since then, yet its national ranking dropped to seventh highest–an improvement, of sorts.

O’Malley recently summed up his disease-fighting record much more succinctly, and no less truthfully: “Syphillis [sic] is down 75% since 1997 and Gonorrhea is down 45% since 1995.” These surgically selected statistics are posted, along with the rest of O’Malley’s Oct. 5 Hopkins speech, on his campaign web site (

Baltimore’s improved status on drug-related emergency-room visits, an important indicator of drug abuse, is impressive, but still marginal in the national context. In 1999, O’Malley wrote that Baltimore is “rated number one in the nation for hospital emergency room admissions involving substance abuse.” In 2005, it was tied with New York and Boston for third in the nation.


But O’Malley failed on some important other promises, such as the one about reducing the need to arrest people. The Green Book was adamant about giving police expanded power to issue civil citations for minor crimes, which was expected to free the courts of petty cases. “Through the use of citations–which make fewer arrests necessary–and courthouse reforms that keep innocent people and minor criminals from languishing in jail for weeks before trial,” O’Malley predicted that “fewer people may actually be locked up using quality-of-life policing strategies.” At the very least, he promised that “quality-of-life policing does not mean arresting and locking up our city’s young men indiscriminately.”

Under Schmoke, there had been 70,000 arrests in 1997 and 85,000 in 1998. After several years of quality-of-life police work, in 2004 O’Malley’s expanded civil-citation powers were put in place. In 2005, city police logged around 100,000 arrests. In 2006, the city was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who raised charges of widespread indiscriminate arrests. So much for the less-arrests theory of zero-tolerance policing.

O’Malley’s record on police corruption and misconduct has a level of intrigue appropriate to the cloak-and-dagger milieu of internal investigations. His campaign pledges on the issue were zealous. “We know,” he wrote in the Green Book, “that when the police are encouraged to be more assertive, government must become more assertive and open in its policing of the police.” He’d been complaining about police corruption and misconduct under Schmoke’s commissioners for years, and yet “our problem has only gotten worse,” he insisted, adding that “There is nothing more harmful to effective law enforcement, and more devastating to the morale of law-abiding citizens and law enforcement officers, than police misconduct.”

To fight it, O’Malley pledged in the Green Book to “open the Police Department’s internal investigation process, to assure the public that police problems are not being swept under the rug by colleagues’ complicity.”

Immediately after gaining City Hall, O’Malley asked outside consultants to look at the department’s problems. Among their tasks was a survey of police personnel about street-level corruption, which showed that 23 percent of the department believed that more than a quarter of its officers were “involved in stealing money or drugs from drug dealers.” The survey put numbers on the idea that the Baltimore police had a corruption problem.

And yet nothing much happened. Not for years. There were two corruption arrests that didn’t pan out. The case against officer Brian Sewell, suspected in 2000 of planting drugs on an innocent suspect, became suspicious when police evidence against him disappeared during a break-in at internal investigators’ offices, and the charges were dropped by prosecutors in 2001. Officer Jacqueline Folio, accused of a false drug arrest, was found not guilty in a 2003 criminal trial, and the department’s administrative case against her was so full of exculpatory evidence and apparent attempts at cover-ups that she was cleared entirely–and settled her own lawsuit against the city over the whole, career-ending episode. At the end of 2003, police said they had conducted 202 “random integrity tests” to catch bad cops since 2000, yet the only cops nabbed were Sewell and Folio.

The quiet continued. In early January of this year, The Washington Post reported that O’Malley had been booed at a legislative hearing over his department’s high volume of arrests, and that the mayor countered that aggressive arrests would be reflected in increased misconduct complaints, which were down. He was soon to lose the use of that argument at hearings, for 2006 quickly became a memorable year in the annals of Baltimore police misbehavior.

Two days after the legislative hearing, on Jan. 6, a city grand jury charged three officers with rape, unearthing evidence that their undercover squad was corrupt in other ways as well. In April, a federal jury convicted two Baltimore police detectives for robbing drug dealers, a city grand jury charged an officer with stealing rims off a car belonging to an arrested citizen, and an officer caught a gambling conviction. In July, two officers were charged in Baltimore County in separate crimes–fraud and theft in one case, and burglary and stalking in the other. And in August, a Baltimore officer was charged with identity theft in Pennsylvania.

As a councilman and mayoral candidate, O’Malley was passionate about the idea that the police department needed a housecleaning. Police officers “after all are only human,” he said in the 1999 phone interview, so they must be policed “to insure that temptation, unchecked anger, and prejudice do not tarnish the moral authority necessary for a police department to effectively perform its job.” After five years of relative quiet punctuated by weak corruption cases under O’Malley, what he predicted in 1999–“well publicized arrests of clusters of officers who are lured away by the easy money and lucrative money of the drug trade,” as he put it in a 1999 phone interview–is finally coming true.


The Green Book set down an anecdote about Schmoke’s police commissioner Thomas Frazier coming before the City Council in September 1996, on the heels of councilman O’Malley’s return from New York to study its policing strategies. “You don’t have to tell me about zero tolerance. I know what they do in New York,” Frazier was quoted as saying. “They’re doing the same thing I started doing here with Greenmount Avenue–close down the open-air drug markets, drive them indoors, and you reduce the violence. . . . I have to be a team player. When we start closing down the open-air drug markets, the judges complain that we’re crowding their courts and the Mayor makes me back off. . . . Tell the judges. I’m only one piece of this criminal justice system.”

And so is Mayor O’Malley only one piece of the city’s public-safety complex, though you’d never know that from reading the Green Book. To get elected, he made it seem like he was a one-man crime-fighting machine, that all he had to do was hire a police commissioner to deploy known policing strategies proven successful in other cities, and it would all fall in place–an instant urban revival. It’s doubtful any mayor could have met the expectations O’Malley set for himself, much less one who hasn’t gone through four police commissioners and three interim commissioners the way O’Malley has. Still, he scored points for seeming to try and for being in power when interest rates dropped. This Nov. 7, the state’s voters will decide whether he tried hard enough. Either way, he still owes.

Bad Seeds: Baltimore police misconduct profiled in lawsuits portrays a department beset by costly allegations of illegal violence and dishonesty

By Van Smith

Published in City Paper, Sept. 30, 2014

After Baltimore police officer Vincent Cosom apparently sucker-punched Kollin Truss at Greenmount and North avenues in June, it took about three months before a video of the incident hit the internet, prompting the matter to go viral in a maelstrom of media coverage and official handwringing.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts reacted quickly, holding a press conference on Sept. 16 at police headquarters. Speaking before a battery of television cameras and backed by a phalanx of white-shirted high-level police the day after Truss filed suit against Cosom, he said, “much like the public, I was shocked, I’m outraged, I’m disgusted by what I saw by an employee of the Baltimore Police Department.”

Batts, who has had his post for two years now, also acknowledged the incident was part of a broader police-misconduct problem that he’s been trying to tackle, saying that “these issues didn’t take place or were not built in the last two years,” and that “it’s going to take more than the last two years to correct them, but they will be corrected.”

Deputy police commissioner Jerry Rodriguez also took to the podium, asserting that “what defines the Baltimore police department is not just one incident” and that there are “many challenges that these officers face on a daily basis, in large numbers . . . in a very professional and heroic way.”

Batts suggested a way forward: “We rebound by doing the job correctly, professionally, constitutionally,” he said. For those who don’t work that way, he had foreboding words: “If there’s bad apples within the organization, we move them out. We get rid of them.”

In many cases, though, the damage is already done, and taxpayers have had to pay. A parade of settlements involving legal claims of police misconduct have come before the Baltimore Board of Estimates this year, including: $49,000 to Charles Faulkner, who claimed he was beaten while in handcuffs during his arrest; $63,000 to Ashley Overbey, on whom police used a stun gun in her apartment; $40,000 to Alex C. Dickson, who was injured in a fight with police trying to enter his apartment; $62,000 to Bolaji Obe and Akinola Adesanya, who said an officer assaulted them in a parking garage; $26,500 to Leah Forde, who’d claimed she’d been falsely arrested and assaulted by an officer; and $75,000 to John Bonkowski, who said officers pulled him out of his car and assaulted him after he’d left a parking garage without paying. The amounts approved for settlement payments from the public coffers do not, of course, include the litigation costs already incurred by having to mount defenses to the claims.

The lawsuits keep coming. The same day Truss sued Cosom, Abduljaami Salaam filed one in federal court against several officers and Batts, claiming he was brutally attacked in July 2013 after witnessing the officers assaulting another man nearby. Salaam describes driving by the prior assault while it was in progress and then parking his car in his nearby driveway, when the officers approached and dragged him out of his car, beat him, hogtied him, and then continued to beat and kick him before falsely arresting him on eluding-police charges that were later dropped. Earlier, on Sept. 5, Jermaine Lyons sued three officers, claiming they cavity-searched him in full public view in May 2013 after they stopped him as he was bicycling and asked him if he had any he drugs—a question he answered in the negative.

The Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is taking concrete steps to heal the damage to community trust that past bad conduct has wrought, including pursuing an effort to have police wear body cameras that record their actions and following the constructive criticism provided by an external audit of its internal-affairs function that investigates misconduct. Batts’ efforts have included the appointment of Lt. Col. Melvin Russell as chief of community partnerships, a new initiative designed to build bridges between BPD, communities, and their institutions, such as churches, in order to enhance public trust in the department.

Last year at an event at Enoch Pratt Central Library, Russell said Batts is trying “to go after the bad seeds in the department and pull them by the root and get’em out of the agency,” according to a transcript of the event. Batts, Russell added, “doesn’t accept it and he’s doin’ his best to root it out of his department.”

The department’s recent bad publicity includes a lengthy Baltimore Sun investigative story, published on Sept. 28, about more than 100 settled lawsuits involving claims of police brutality and other civil-rights violations. The story says that taxpayers have paid more than $11 million in settlements and litigation costs since January 2011.

The ongoing public outrage has not occurred in a vacuum. The Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, spawned not only unrest in that city, but a national outcry over law-enforcement culture and its perceived insensitivity to communities’ desires to assure safety without intrusive, fearsome, dishonest, and brutal police tactics. A survey of recent police-misconduct litigation involving BPD suggests that, in Baltimore, such concerns may not be unfounded.

Makia Smith

In March 2012, Makia Smith was stopped in traffic when she noticed four BPD officers—Nathan Church, William Pilkerton Jr., Nathan Ulmer, and Kenneth Campbell—beating a man, and began using her cellphone to take pictures of the spectacle. One of the officers, Nathan Church, noticed what Smith was doing, and proceeded to grab and destroy the telephone by stomping on it before pulling Smith out of her car and beating her. The other three officers then joined in on the assault before arresting Smith, while threatening to transport her 2-year-old daughter, who was in car’s back seat, to the Department of Social Services. Charges that Smith assaulted Church and obstructed traffic with her car were later dropped. Smith received medical treatment for injuries to her face, neck, and body.

U.S. District Court judge Marvin Garbis in March ruled that Smith’s claims against BPD and Batts could go forward, despite their efforts to have them dismissed, and so the case is proceeding to two trials: first as to the individual officers, then as to BPD and Batts.

Church tried to have Smith’s lawsuit stayed because he’d sought bankruptcy protection shortly after it was filed, but Garbis denied the request, noting, “it appears that Defendant Church made false statements, under oath, to the United States Bankruptcy Court, regarding the pendency of the instant lawsuit.” More recently, former Baltimore City Solicitor Thurman Zollicoffer, now with Whiteford, Taylor, and Preston, and helping represent Church and the other officers, on Sept. 15 filed a letter to Garbis, asking the judge to allow the officers to file motions for summary judgment on the grounds that “Church had probable cause to arrest Ms. Smith,” since she’d “refused lawful orders” to move her car and produce her driver’s license.

One of the officers who joined in the beating of Smith, Ulmer, was named as a defendant in Salaam’s newly filed lawsuit, which, like Smith’s, alleges that “the Officers tormented Mr. Salaam by telling him that his son,” a 3-year-old who was present in the vehicle when Ulmer and the other officers allegedly beat him while he was restrained, “would be sent to Social Services.”

An important element of Smith’s case has been Church’s seizing and smashing the phone she was using to record the officers. The “factual allegations as to the March 8, 2012 incident, combined with the allegation regarding numerous other incidents,” Garbis wrote, “plausibly establish the inference that BCPD had an official policy or custom of preventing citizens from being able to record police officers performing their official duties in public.”

Shortly before Garbis’ ruling was docketed on March 25, BPD announced a new policy allowing citizens to record police conducting their business, as long as the recordings don’t interfere with police business, an announcement that came on the heels of the city agreeing to a $250,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by a Howard County man who said BPD officers seized his phone and deleted video of them making an arrest at the 2010 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course. The new policy tightens up an earlier one that the U.S. Department of Justice said did not go far enough to protect citizens’ rights.

Troy Williams

Troy Williams says he is cousins with Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, the BPD’s chief of community partnerships, a connection that would seem to give him an edge after, as he claims in a lawsuit filed in April, a BPD officer struck him unconscious with a police radio in July 2011 as Williams walked out of a church where he’d gone to attend a friend’s funeral, and police then filed false drug-possession charges against him. The attack, Williams claims, was part of a conspiracy to retaliate against him for filing an earlier police-brutality complaint. Whether or not Williams’ family tie helps his cause remains to be seen, as the court proceedings are at an early stage, with the officers claiming that their alleged conduct was not a conspiracy and fell within the scope of their duties, even if unauthorized.

Williams’ suit asserts that Brian Flynn, the officer who allegedly attacked him, did so because he’d filed an internal-affairs complaint about a month earlier, after seeing another unnamed officer beat a man in a jail cell where Williams had been briefly locked up without charges. Williams claims that the unnamed officer, like Flynn, served under Russell at the time, and that Williams later told Russell about the brutality complaint he’d filed. Flynn only realized he was dealing with his superior’s cousin, the lawsuit explains, after he’d struck Williams unconscious, when another officer arrived on the scene and informed him.

At that point, the lawsuit states, in “an effort to save face,” Flynn asked Williams “where it was” without saying what “it” was, and then “threw Mr. Williams in the backseat” of a cruiser and drove him to the Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room. There, Williams’s scalp was “closed with surgical staples,” and Flynn allegedly told the emergency-room staff “to note in Mr. Williams’ file that Mr. Williams is addicted to heroin, which is a pattern, practice, and/or policy and custom . . . utilized by police officers after they have brutally attacked so-called suspects.” The lawsuit adds that “Mr. Williams is not a heroin addict and Defendant Flynn had no reason to believe that Mr. Williams was a heroin addict.” After Williams’ release from the emergency room, another officer, Dane Hicks, booked him on drug-possession charges that were later dropped, since “there was never any controlled dangerous substance recovered,” the lawsuit states.

Williams’ lawsuit includes allegations that the city is loath to hold officers accountable for their misdeeds. It is “not news to anyone in” BPD or the mayor’s office, the lawsuit states, “that officers are free to make false arrests and manipulate evidence without fear of meaningful punishment or reprimand because their supervisors control their punishments, and there is a pattern, practice, and/or policy and custom” of “not punishing officers’ misconduct or providing meaningful reprimand, many times involving backdoor deals.”

Daniel Rockwell

Rockwell, who court documents describe as “mentally challenged,” fled to the roof of his house when officers arrived there to serve an arrest warrant on him in February 2011, and, as he moved to reenter the house as directed, police officer Clyde Rawlins used a stun gun on him, and Rockwell fell off the roof of his house, resulting in fractured vertebrae. After Rockwell landed on the ground, officers rolled him over onto his stomach and handcuffed him with his arms behind his back.

Rockwell was a minor at the time of the incident. His lawyers’ efforts to obtain police documentation about the incident, which would provide them with the officers’ names and official accounts of what happened so that a lawsuit could be filed, were stymied by BPD, and initially the department took the position that no such records existed. Eventually, Rockwell sued over the issue and won in February 2013, when a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ordered BPD to turn over its records of the incident. Rockwell and his mother, Demetria Holden, filed suit shortly thereafter.

Rockwell’s lawsuit is now in federal court, and in March U.S. District judge Richard Bennett ruled that it survived efforts by BPD and Rawlins to have it dismissed. The case against Rawlins, alleging assault and battery and gross negligence, will be litigated first, followed by claims that BPD engaged in a civil-rights conspiracy by withholding documentation of the incident.

Working on Rockwell’s behalf is Robert Klotz, a police-procedures expert who used to run the Washington, D.C., police department’s special operations division. Klotz is quoted in court filings as saying that the way Rawlins allegedly used the stun gun against Rockwell “would be a violation of the national police standards” and that “no reasonabl[y] trained officer could believe this action would be proper.”

The legal battle over Rockwell’s claims has been pitched. Recently, Rawlins’ attorneys moved to bar Rockwell’s statements from proceedings in the case, since he has been deemed in criminal courts to be incompetent to stand trial. “Rockwell conveniently claims that he is incompetent when it suits his purposes to avoid criminal prosecution,” the filing states, “but then inexplicably becomes competent when it serves his purpose of extracting money from the City of Baltimore.” In addition, the filing claims “Rawlins feared that Rockwell was reaching for a gun,” and “deployed his taser against Rockwell in self-defense.”

Mark Harrell 

Though his case was dismissed in April, the racial-discrimination suit brought by Mark Harrell and a woman, Roslyn Wiggins, revealed what U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake described as “unacceptable behavior by members of the Baltimore City Police Department, including a warrantless home search.” In essence, Harrell and Wiggins may have received a better result in court had they sued not over allegations of discrimination, but over violations of the U.S. Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The suit was filed against BPD officers Joseph Donato, Valentine Nagovich Jr., Iris Martin, and William Rivera. Nagovich and Donato each wrote police reports when, in September 2010, they arrested Harrell for loitering and impeding traffic. Nagovich simply stated Harrell was arrested after he was ordered to stop loitering, and after about 45 minutes, he still was—while also arguing with and cursing at the officers. Donato’s report added that Harrell “appeared to throw a dark object into the door” of a house, and, after Harrell’s arrest, Donato “used force to enter the front door” of the house, damaging the door, despite having no warrant to do so.

In her ruling, Blake wrote that the version of events related by Harrell and Wiggins “adds troubling details regarding police behavior,” including that Donato “completely destroyed” the door to the house and that, when asked what he was arresting Harrell for, Donato said, “I’ll think of something.” A few days later, Harrell was again arrested, and this time when Donato was asked what the charges were, he allegedly responded: “Let’s take it up a notch, how about conspiracy?” Harrell was placed in a police cruiser, at which point he was allegedly shown what appeared to be heroin and asked, “Oh, what do we got here?” After 17 hours in lockup, Harrell was released without charges.

Donato’s been in trouble before, drawing lawsuits for a drug raid based on an allegedly perjured warrant and for allegedly assaulting a man whose cellphone he seized because the man was using the phone to record the police beating two men in handcuffs. Blake’s ruling in the case brought by Harrell and Wiggins states that “since the events alleged in this case, Donato and Rivera have been removed from active duty as a result of disciplinary actions, although they remain employed by the Baltimore City Police Department.”

Thomas Robert Foster Jr.

In a case that shows the potential value of installing surveillance cameras around one’s home, Thomas Robert Foster Jr. and his father and sister sued several BPD officers for false arrest, a falsified sworn statement of probable cause, and an illegal search of their home. The accused officers—Thomas E. Wilson, Keith Gladstone, Carmine Vignola, and Gregory Fisher—have not answered the lawsuit, which was filed last December, but a motions battle that resulted in the city being dismissed as a defendant has revealed key facts and circumstances.

On May 24, 2012, Foster exited his home, an act that was recorded by his surveillance cameras. Moments later, he was arrested by Wilson and Fisher, and Wilson allegedly punched Foster in the face while he was handcuffed. Wilson’s sworn statement to justify Foster’s arrest says he was carrying a black bag containing drugs when he left his house. What the camera recorded, though, was Foster walking out of his house “without a black bag or any similar item in his hands,” according to court documents.

Immediately after arresting Foster, Wilson and Fisher entered Foster’s home without a warrant, and were soon joined by Gladstone and Vignola—all of which was captured on video. Wilson then sought a warrant to search the house, and in doing so swore, once again, that Foster was carrying a black bag with drugs in it. Still, Foster was indicted and held in jail for 197 days before prosecutors declined to pursue the charges.

Foster’s lawsuit points out that Wilson has a track record of “making false representations to a Court,” having drawn a rebuke from a federal judge in a 2003 for telling “knowing lies” in testimony and an affidavits in a criminal case, yet BPD “allowed him to remain in his position as a drug enforcement officer.”

Marlow Humbert

After spending 14 months in jail before rape charges against him were dropped in July 2009, during which time he was dubbed the “Charles Village Rapist” in the media, Humbert in March convinced a federal judge that his malicious-prosecution claims against three BPD officers—Christopher Jones, Dominick Griffin, and Caprice Smith—should proceed. DNA tests excluded Humbert as a suspect within a month of his arrest, yet, despite the victim’s apparent uncertainty in identifying Humbert as the man who raped her, the case continued as Humber languished in jail.

In their effort to establish probable cause to arrest Humbert for the rape, according to the judge’s ruling in the case, officers may have purposefully misconstrued the strength of the victim’s photo-identification of Humbert, and then, at Humbert’s arraignment, they apparently ignored the victim’s statements that she “had even more doubt” that they had the right suspect after seeing Humbert in person.

The defendants contend that the victim’s identification of Humbert was, in fact, positive, and so they continued to prosecute the case, despite the DNA exclusion. The charges were dropped, court documents state, due to the victim “becoming discouraged with the justice system due to numerous postponements,” so “she no longer wanted to participate in the case.”

A one-week trial is scheduled to begin in the federal courthouse in Baltimore next April, but a key question is still undecided: will the victim, who has since moved to Flint, Michigan, be required to testify in person or via live transmission from another location? Court documents say “she reports to fear for her safety” in Baltimore, yet the defense attorneys point out that Flint “is more dangerous than Baltimore” and is “the second most dangerous city in the country.”

Jerome Dale

The way Jerome Dale puts it, in January 2011 he was chased by two men through the streets of Baltimore at night during a snowstorm, escaped his pursuers by catching a passing MTA bus, and then got off the bus to seek protection from police officers at a 7-Eleven—but the officers he was asking for help proceeded to arrest him when the victim of an earlier rape arrived, with the men who had been pursuing Dale, and identified him as the rapist, though one of the officers noted that the identification was weak. As a result, Dale—who in 1979 was awarded the Young American Medal for Bravery by President Ronald Reagan for rescuing two small children from a house fire—spent seven months in jail until DNA exonerated him and the charges were dropped.

Dale’s complaint alleges that BPD officers “knew that they did not have probable cause to” arrest Dale since a “note written by one of Mr. Dale’s arresting officers” stated that “they didn’t believe that Mr. Dale committed the reported rape.” Yet, as they proceeded with the case, they “hindered the testing and production” of his “exonerating DNA evidence,” the complaint continues, “as a means of prolonging the revelation that they had, in fact, arrested and charged another innocent man.” The lawsuit makes references to Humbert’s case, arguing that Dale’s alleged experience is part of a trend, in which “false arrests are made in reported rape cases and, subsequently, the testing and production of exonerating DNA evidence is hindered” while the accused “are left to languish indefinitely in pre-trial incarceration.”

A key part of Dale’s claim is that the police ceased investigating the victim’s reported rape once they’d arrested Dale base on the victim’s identification, and “did not make any attempt to confirm Mr. Dale’s alibis, despite his vehement statements that at least four different people could attest to his whereabouts on the evening” it occurred. This, the lawsuit alleges, goes against federal, state, and city law-enforcement guidance that an “investigation will not be concluded or otherwise cease based solely on a potential eyewitness identification,” but “will continue until all physical evidence has been collected and examined, all witness identified, and all reasonable leads explored.”

Guy Jackson 

After allegedly being forced by two men with guns to drive a stolen vehicle to a West Baltimore intersection, where the men got out and started shooting at someone, Guy Jackson was shot by police while he sat in the car in April 2013. It’s what happened afterward, though, when Jackson was being treated at Maryland Shock Trauma that, according to a federal judge’s July ruling, is a triable claim of unreasonable search and seizure.

BPD homicide detective Julian Min—whose prior police conduct contributed to the city settling a lawsuit over a young man’s false attempted-murder charges—arrived at Shock Trauma about six days later and allegedly told the doctors treating Jackson that he was taking him to the medical facility at the Baltimore City Jail. The doctors advised him not to, but Min escorted Jackson out of the hospital anyway, and instead interrogated him at police headquarters before putting him out on the streets. Jackson was thus left outside near President Street, his jaw wired shut and a feeding tube inserted in his stomach, wearing only a hospital gown.

Jackson, along with the one other man who survived the barrage of police bullets, remains charged with attempted murder, along with handgun and stolen-vehicle counts. But his attorneys maintain he is charged for a crime that prosecutors know he didn’t commit.

Anthony Anderson Sr.

After Anthony Anderson died as a result of a 2012 beating he received by BPD officers Todd Strohman, Michael Vodarick, and Gregg Boyd, his family and his estate sued the officers, the city, and BPD last October. In March, U.S. District Judge George Russell III let the city and BPD out of the case, but it’s proceeding against the officers, who, though the medical examiner ruled Anderson’s death a homicide, were not charged criminally, since their use of force against Anderson was not deemed excessive.

Anderson’s lawyers paint a partial picture of the incident in the lawsuit, not making any mention of the much-publicized facts that police had observed Anderson conducting a hand-to-hand drug deal and that, after they’d restrained him, they found drugs in his mouth. Nonetheless, Russell’s brief recitation of what happened, memorialized in his ruling, bears repeating.

Anderson “was returning home from a local corner store on September 21, 2012,” Russell wrote, “when Officer Strohman approached him from behind in a vacant lot, lifted Anderson from his knees, and threw him to the ground head and neck first. Officer Strohman handcuffed Anderson while he lay on the ground. Moments later, Officers Vodarick and Boyd approached. The three officers proceeded to kick Anderson repeatedly in his ribs, stomach, back, and chest, causing him significant injuries from which he later died.”

Yardell Henderson

In August, Yardell Henderson won a $100,000 verdict from a Baltimore City Circuit Court against BPD officers Kody Taylor and Matthew Sarver, over a 2010 incident in which they beat up Henderson, who was 16 years old and about 120 pounds at the time.

Henderson’s attorney, Cary Hansel, issued a press release after the verdict, claiming that the officers first “provoked” Henderson to run from them “by shouting racial epithets and other insults at him,” and then chased him to behind his home, where, before witnesses, he was “beaten, punched, kicked, choked and handcuffed,” and then “transported to a different location,” where “he was searched and released without charges.”

Hansel argued that the officers’ decision to move Henderson was “part of a cover up so that when supervisors responded to the minor’s new location, there would be no witnesses there to the attack,” and that the incident was “a pretext to search and interrogate” Henderson “about any crime in the area.” Henderson, though, “had no such information to provide them and the search turned up no contraband.”

Taylor and Sarver have left BPD, according to Hansel, and during the trial Taylor refused to testify about what led to his departure: “an integrity sting” that “resulted in allegations that Taylor was involved with pocketing money recovered from an undercover officer posing as an arrestee.”

Christine Abbott

After BPD officers Lee Grishkot and Todd Edick arrived at a party in Hampden in June 2012, responding to a noise complaint, they talked with Jacob Masters Jr. and asked him to put out his cigarette. When Masters refused, they threatened to use a stun gun on him, at which point Christine Abbott intervened, asking the officers and Masters to “calm down” and suggesting there was “no need” to make such threats, according to the lawsuit Abbott filed against Grishkot and Edick last November.

At that point, Abbott claims, the officers “grabbed” her and “threw her to the ground,” causing her “dress to go up over her back, revealing her underwear” and her shoulder to be “cut and bleeding.” When the officers stood her up, her “dress was ripped” and her “breasts were exposed,” yet they “refused to allow” Abbott to “pull up her dress or otherwise conceal her breasts.” They then handcuffed her and put her in a police transport van, but “did not strap or harness her in the back” of the van, which they “maniacally drove” to the police station, “thereby tossing” Abbott “around the interior of the van,” causing “further injuries.”

Abbott was charged with “assault, resisting arrest, obstructing and hindering, and disorderly conduct,” and was detained for 19 hours before being released. The charges against her were later dismissed. Grishkot and Edick have denied wrongdoing, but admit that some of Abbott’s allegations are true, including that they threatened to use a stun gun on Masters and that Grishkot threw Abbott into the van and proceeded to give her a rough ride.